Session IV – “Our Potential Role in Peoples’ Lives” 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Q. – Language – what about Father and Son jargon that reinforces a patriarchal vision of God?

Peter Rollins, How Not To Speak About God – God is the one we cannot name. We encounter God as part of a tradition. It is impossible to speak apart from some tradition. God is the One of whom our language will always fall short, but of whom we cannot keep silent.

It is a greater crime to be silent than to use inadequate language.

CS Lewis poem:

Footnote to All Prayers

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow

When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,

And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart

Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.

Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme

Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,

And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address

The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless

Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert

Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;

And all men are idolators, crying unheard

To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.

Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great

Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

There is a difference between praying to your belief about God and praying to God who is beyond all human language.

Q. – people of other faiths?

One easy alternative is to say we are Christians and so we are against everyone else.

Second easy alternative is to stop being Christians who are defined by what we are against but reduce our identity to almost nothing.

Third not-so-easy alternative is to hold a high level of identity and yet maintain a high level of welcome.

The world needs the good news of Jesus Christ. We have in our tradition a way of life and a set of skills and practices that can really help people.

Priesthood means helping people connect with God.

Clergy = priests to and for the church

Disciples = priests from and of the church

Disciples go out from the church to do in the world what has been done for them by the clergy in the church. Disciples are priests to the Nones, the Dones, and the No-Funs who see “religion” as providing exclusive religious goods and resources to human souls so they can be saved from God. They want to know what kind of God you need to be saved from.

Instead of “religion” people are looking for spirituality – how God is saving all creation from human evil by grace through faith.

“I’m not religious but spiritual” = People do not believe that organized religion has all the answers, nor do they believe that science, government or economics has all the answers.

Those who designate as “spiritual but not religious” perceive that religion makes people vicious, but they also worry that no spiritual identity makes people vacuous.

The problem is that it seems as if absolutism leads to genocide while relativism results in a loss of identity.

The common view of the Christian religion on the part of those who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious” is that the Christian religion sees itself as holding exclusive distributorship of saving doctrines exercising rituals and regulating membership so souls can be saved from God. The goal is to make converts and believers getting souls into heaven. Jesus came to bring blessings for members and condemnation for nonmembers. Clergy are intended to be priests and pastors to and for members. Lay people are consumers, satisfied customers who then go out and become marketers. The focus of the church is on one hour per week. The group is held together by a strong in-group vs. out-group identity, us vs. them.

When we practice Christian spirituality this picture shifts:

Identity – a way of wisdom, compassion, and love so creation can be saved from human evil

Goal – a world healed and transformed

Jesus – blessings for learners so they can bring blessings to everyone

Leaders – training fellow-learners to be priests and pastors to all humanity

Learners – being presence and agents of Christ inviting and including others

Focus – way of life and goodness lived every day

Social Cohesion – come-on-in group, some of us for all of us

How does “religion” view other religions?

Other religions shouldn’t exist; they are a mistake that should be critiqued and eradicated. Their leaders should be rejected, mocked, vilified and discredited. Their beliefs should be feared and avoided as competition with and a contradiction to our own. We should seek to avoid people of other religions or convert and assimilate them. If they won’t convert, we should ignore, shame, or inconvenience them. If they become a threat, we defeat and ‘cleanse’ them.

Spirituality views other religions as part of God’s work which should be understood and valued. They are a mix of good and evil in need of growth and maturity – just as ours is. Other religious leaders should be respected, honoured, and appreciated. Other religious beliefs and practices may have much to each us, similarities and differences may help us appreciate our own. We should receive the gifts people of other religions have to offer us and offer them the gifts we have. We seek mutual understanding. We collaborate for the good of all.

How do we encourage people towards a deeper spiritual life?

1. Ask about their stories – say to people, ‘Tell me about your story;’ give them permission just to talk. Your role is to listen. This is creating a safe space.
2. Listen and learn without judgment. People already feel a lot of judgment. They don’t need us adding any more.
3. Share your stories without jargon. We have to learn to talk about our faith without jargon. What really transmits faith is personal stories of spiritual experience. Learn how to be ok talking about your spiritual experiences.
4. Invite and include – invite into safe spaces; include in mission and service

Questions to encourage sharing of spiritual stories:

1. what was your religious background?
2. what have been key milestones or experiences in your spiritual life and growth?
3. what difference has spirituality made in your life?
4. why are you a spiritual person?
5. what role does church involvement play in your spiritual life?
6. what are your spiritual struggles/difficulties/barriers/doubts?

these notes have been supplemented by reference to

Session V – 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Q. – How to deal with the contentious language in the Bible?

Need to move the metaphor for the Bible from “constitution” (which intends to remove disagreement) to “library” (which helps us account for the presence of point/counterpoint). A religion is a group of people who argue over the same issues for generations. If the Bible is an argument, then point/counterpoint is a strength.

Could it be that what made Paul angry is that people were trying to constrict the gospel and make it exclusive, narrowing it down from what Jesus had offered.

We need to understand that if the only people those who are outside the church talk to are Christians who are reactionary and narrow, that is the only vision of God people outside the church will have.

We need to develop safe spaces into which to invite people. Some of our churches are not safe spaces. What would it take to make my church a safe place? What are the danger signs/barriers people might encounter in approaching my church?

What priests do is accept people as they are.

The practice of queries – learn to ask questions in a safe space. Choose a couple of queries and ask the same query over a long time: Since we last met in what way have you experienced God’s presence? Since we last met have you been given an opportunity to serve a person in need?

When we learn to ask the questions, we start to see that our lives are full of these moments.

The stories in the Bible have more power than our explanations of those stories.

People don’t need your answers; they need your gentleness and respect.