Historian, independent scholar, writer, and church researcher Diana Butler-Bass is in town. She spoke last night at St. John the Divine Anglican Church.

The title of Butler-Bass’ address was “Finding God In The World: A Spiritual Revolution.” Here are a few notes:


So much of what is going on inside the church now just does not connect with what is going on outside the church.

People are finding God in the world around us. We need to pay attention to how people outside the church are finding God.

We need to understand how we think about and how we understand God.

In the Italian Renaissance portrait of “God the Father” by Cima da Conegliano, c. 1515, we have a picture of a “God” who is not here. God is out there. God is big, but has no bottom half, no connection with here. God In Sky

This is the perception of God that haunts western culture. Our theology has often been a theology of distance – the “omni-God.” God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. This God is always “He.”

This God is a very powerful memory of western culture.  But this is the God that the west is turning away from. Most people in North America believe this is the God in which the church believers and they don’t know there is an alternative to this God.

If I’m looking for God, what God am I looking for?

“Where is God?” is one of the most consequential questions of our times. How our culture answers the questions, “Where is God?” and “Who is God?” will shape our culture and our society.

North Americans outside of church are finding God in:

  1. Nature – God is with the world
  2. Neighbour – God is with all of us

Church people are mad at nature because people are staying away from church and encountering God in nature.

We cannot afford to separate neighbor from nature – they depend on each other. They are spiritually and absolutely connected.

Neighbour means “near-dweller”.

We are shifting away from:

  • a distant God of a vertical universe


  • an intimate God hovering at the horizon

We are moving toward an understanding of God as an intimate presence who hovers at the horizons of human experience. This is “God with us.”

We need to see and experience and pay attention to the ways God is differently located and is perceived outside the church.


I came away from Diana Butler-Bass’ address wondering:

Do the people of our neighbourhood perceive that we in the church take them seriously?

What is the spirituality of our neighbourhood?

Do we respect the spirituality of those outside the church?

How can we see the spirituality of the people among whom we live?

How might we listen deeply to the people of our neighbourhood?

What questions are the people in our neighbourhood asking?

What are the deep instincts, impulses, desires, and intentions that motivate the people in our neighbourhood?

What really moves the people in our neighbourhood?

How might the church be better equipped to meet the people in our neighbourhood?

What barriers have we in the church erected that might be a hindrance to our ability to truly connect with the people of our neighbourhood?

What might it look like for the church to serve and support the spirituality that people outside the church are embodying in their lives?