There are few places more awe-inspiring than the beach, early in the morning (or late at night), and when I am fortunate enough to spend time at one, I don’t ever think “Geeee, I need to find a church so I can get closer to God,…“. No place on earth is closer to the Creator than nature in her raw and powerful form, whether at the beach, on a mountain or even in our own neighborhoods.
This morning when I awoke, I considered getting a shower, dressing and then driving across town to attend a local Center for Spiritual Living Sunday Service. I have friends there, and I haven’t attended a service since I was in California, several months ago.
While I pondered the thought, I took in the morning. It was quiet in my house; the open windows allowing me to hear the morning song of the birds, and the chorus of the harbingers of Autumn, the locusts. I heard the tree branches rustle in the breeze and smelled the clean, fresh scent of the new day.
As I rested there in my chair, my mind returned to a time, many years ago, when my children were very small and we attended a traditional church. Every Sunday morning was a rush and often a hassle. I worked evenings at the local hospital and this meant that many Sundays when the church alarm went off, I hadn’t gotten much sleep. At the time, many years before I began to move away from traditional religion and onto a seeker’s path, I wondered how in the heck going to church was supposed to be so good for families when it resulted in a weekly headache for me, and an argument between my husband and me. There had to be a better way to connect with the spiritual side of life.
More than 20 years later I find myself on the other side of that question, realizing that my instincts at the time were prescient. In America today, 9 out of 10 churches are in decline and in my own organization of “spiritual not religious” seekers, times are also tough and for many of the same reasons. This morning I got a little more insight into the “why“, although there’s no shortage of research to answer that question.
I’ve written a number of blogs on the challenges for the traditional Sunday morning service, and the data coming out of places like the Pew Forum indicate that the trends aren’t likely to reverse themselves any time soon.
In the spiritual not religious sector especially, much of the teaching is around how to achieve more peace, balance and harmony in one’s life. Sitting in my home this morning, I realized that rushing into the shower, digging through my closet for something to wear, and then driving across town to sit in a room and have someone quote a 20th century mystic or the latest best-selling guru to tell me that I can indeed achieve the peace I am seeking,… was ridiculous.
In that moment I knew without a doubt that there was no music, no message, no workshop or seminar that could give me more than I had in that peaceful, no pressure moment.
I no longer have children at home, and still dread having to run “one more place” on weekends. I cannot imagine that dread if I was working full-time AND running kids to music lessons, sports practice and managing the laundry, household chores and other tasks of a busy family.
I doubt that this trend is going to change any time soon, but yet churches and centers remain in a holding pattern, doing the same thing they’ve always done and hoping that a new speaker, or a new workshop will be the tipping point.
Many people find peace and solace in a spiritual practice. The challenge for organizations that need people to show up weekly and throw some money in an offering plate is that learning a spiritual practice no longer requires weekly attendance in a church or center. And I don’t think that live-streaming church services is the answer either.
This morning, I no more wanted to turn my computer on and listen to the noise of a live-streamed church service than I wanted to drive across town. My soul was being fed by the peace and solitude of nature in the quiet of my home. In a way, we’ve been TOO successful in teaching people how to find their bliss – and like me, they’re finding it in places that are not the traditional Sunday morning service.
I’m not sure what the answer is for religious organizations, but I’m fairly certain that hanging on to old paradigms and waiting for the rush into the seats on Sunday morning isn’t it.
Our culture is in the midst of great change. We can see it all around us, in empty storefronts, church buildings for sale, in the new ways we access the necessities of life, and more. No one knows what it will look like when it finally settles, but one thing is certain: it’s going to be different than what we’ve known.
In times of upheaval and change, people need spiritual support. Will we, the people and organizations best positioned to provide that support, be able to evolve in time to be relevant and ready?
(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path