Many in the UK today – many in Lanark – describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. Maybe it’s how you respond when asked about your views. It’s good that many are still open-minded when it comes to the big questions. It shows that culture isn’t satisfied with the message that reality consists only of what can be seen, touched and measured in a science lab. You instinctively know there is more to life, even if you can’t put a name to it. A mystery that all of us are confronted with and a hope that all of us hold out for: hope in an afterlife or hope that this life means something. A search for the experience of a reality outside of ourselves and bigger than ourselves that can’t be explained away easily. That’s what’s summed up in the word spiritual. The issue is that many people can’t seem to find that meaning, hope and experience of mystery in what we commonly understand as organised religion – the church.
Why? There may be several reasons. There’s common misconceptions in the UK that church is all about outdated rules, stubborn beliefs and social obligation rather than spiritual experience. There’s no doubt that, at times, this has been a fair criticism. But the church for the most part is seeking the exact same things that we described earlier – spiritual reality – and like everyone, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. The difference is that we do so publicly and that we seek and find forgiveness from God and one another when we get it wrong. What’s important is that we are still trying, every Sunday and in the rest of our normal week, to experience God by our side and follow God’s path. Our way of doing that is to follow the teaching of Jesus rather than our own instincts. To open our lives up to the mystery we call God in ancient types of prayer and worship rather than keeping our horizons small – limited by our individual perspective. As long as the church teaches the path of Jesus Christ, who showed that God is close to everybody, we are a home and community for those who are spiritually seeking. Religion and spirituality does come together in the church, helping our open-minded search for the truth that is bigger than ourselves and enabling us to experience awe and wonder as we turn from ourselves towards God.
In future blog posts we may break this topic down in more detail. In the meantime, why not try the church and see what you find there. What you can guarantee is that you’ll be welcomed by those seeking the spiritual life like you are.
Rev. Lee Johnston (Curate, Christ Church)