Tag Archives: spiritual independents

Pluralism Summer Week 7: Archbishop Franzo King

st_john_coltrane_fmivnlThe Church of St. John Coltrane was in the news a while back because of the loss of their worship space on Fillmore Street. No one was sure where they would go or if this unique expression of spirituality and worship would be lost. Thankfully, in April, they took up residence along with us at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. They join, not only 10155866_10153102768389325_6707118149508077725_nFirst United and St. Cyprian’s, but also Sophia in Trinity (the Roman Catholic Womanpriest congregation) and Middle Circle (First United’s outreach to the spiritually independent).

The corner of Turk & Lyon has become quite the  eclectic center!125

This Sunday, we are delighted to have as our guest speaker Archbishop Franzo W. King, co-founder of The Church of St. John Coltrane and presently Archbishop of the African Orthodox Church-Jurisdiction West. He is also a founding Member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

This will undoubtedly be a highlight in our summer series!
And, as always, regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, all are welcome.

 

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

 

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Pluralism Summer: Weeks 5 & 6

165763_489522519437_2022599_nI first met Dolores White back in 2002 when I had just arrived in Berkeley. I’d met Paul Chaffee from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio and was invited to a board meeting. Somehow I found my way from the East Bay to the far side of San Francisco (the Presidio is not easy to get to on public transportation and my car was still back in Buffalo).  I’ve gotten much more savvy about navigating the streets of San Francisco, but back then I wasn’t sure how I’d ever find my way back home.

Dolores, a member of the Baha’i faith, was one of the board members who welcomed me that day and the first to offer me a ride to the nearest BART station. I was so grateful. Since then I’ve learned that that’s just Dolores: graciousness personified.

She was one of our speakers two summers ago, when our theme was the environment, and I’m so glad she agreed to come back for Week 5 to address the question of how her Baha’i faith informs how she thinks about politics.

Unfortunately, however, I won’t be there. I’ll be attending NAINConnect 2106 in Guadalajara. NAIN is the North American Interfaith Network, founded in 1990 as a way to build communication and mutual understanding among interfaith organizations and diverse religious groups throughout North America.

d4ba2c0967b317439c004019f5e18b66This will be the first gathering in Mexico and there will be an emphasis on Indigenous Peoples and their relationship to the land/struggle for land and water rights.  The theme of the conference this year is Sacred Space. According to the planners, we’ll be looking at sacred space in the widest sense possible – our inner sacred space, the space we create together in relationship, our worship spaces, holy places, the land and the earth and the universe as sacred. Also, my workshop proposal was accepted, so I’ll be leading my first interfaith intrafaith conversation!

WEEK 6 of Pluralism Summer will be completely different. Middle Circle will be taking over the entire time slot. Middle Circle is the “spiritual but not religious” community sponsored by First United. The theme’s question had to be a little different for this group: “How does your religious/ spiritual/ philosophical tradition inform how you think about politics?” Not only will Middle Circle give us their insights, they’ll also help those of us in the “traditional” church expand our ideas of what the interfaith community includes.

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

 

Pluralism Summer: Week 3

This past spring, peter_erlenweina colleague called me to ask if I knew a place where the author of a new book on interreligious spirituality might present a talk on this topic. Intrigued, I agreed to a virtual introduction and then went on to set up an in-person meeting.

When I met Dr. Peter Erlenwein at the Dolores Park Cafe, I knew we were talking the same language! And I was delighted that he accepted my invitation to be part of our Pluralism Summer series.  I didn’t know much about Dr. Erlenwein at the time of that first meeting, but I have since discovered the depth of his knowledge and experience. And while listening to him talk at that first meeting, I realized how relevant his research is for today’s explorations of what it means to be “spiritual but not religious.”

Peter Erlenwein, Ph.D., is a sociopsychologist and transpersonal therapist from Germany. His integral approach combines Jungian archetypal psychology, meditation and body mind work with dance, ritual and role-playing in the context of sacred text reflections of different religious traditions. His spiritual insight and life has been deeply inspired by his decades long travels to India, Southern Africa and now the US. As a radio journalist, author and intercultural researcher he has been publishing continuously on interreligious subjects. His latest book is titled: Und sah die Himmel offen. Spiritualität diesseits und jenseits von Religion (And saw the heaven open. Spirituality this side and beyond religion).

I’m looking foreward to hearing what Dr. Erlenwein will have to say this Sunday about the intersection of religion and politics!

 

New Voices in the Conversation Part 1: Spiritual Independents                                                                                         

51UJ1PNsX6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Those of us who are still in the church must accept the fact that for many people the old categories of Catholic/ Protestant, Episcopal/ Methodist, high church/ low church, contemporary/ traditional, etc. just do not matter. There are new voices contributing to the religious scene, although most of them would not like to be referred to as religious. These voices deserve to be heard. They may have left or never been part of the church, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot to say about spirituality, the meaning of life and how to make a difference in the world.

Spiritual Independents
A piece of accepted wisdom among many involved in interfaith dialogue is that one must first be grounded in one particular tradition. This is reflected in the quote by Mahatma Gandhi that . . . our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.” However, according to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One fifth of the US public – and a third of adults under thirty – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

We often refer to these folks as the “spiritual but not religious” or “Nones.” But I agree with Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who has declared that these designations are too negative and has coined the more positive “spiritually independent.”  In Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent he says:

“Most of these so-called Nones are not dismissive of God or spirituality but simply find religious labels and affiliation too narrow and constraining. This is why I choose to call this segment of the population by the far more positive and accurate term spiritually independent.”

In another positive take on it, the Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti, a Board Trustee for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, writes in “The Nones Are Off the Bus, and Many of Them are Alls”: “I know a lot of Nones and many of them are Alls. They celebrate the Winter Solstice, and Easter sunrise, they may do yoga or meditate, and they give thoughtfully to charities, all in no particular order, but depending on where they are, how they feel, what seems to be called for. They resist labels produced by media-saturated culture to represent certain predetermined sets of characteristics. They distrust such prepackaged beliefs, and also distrust religious institutions that are so often corrupt and hypocritical. Yet they value human spiritual heritage, often in great variety, and many of these people are more comfortable in a variety of religious settings than they would be in only one.”
“The Nones Are Off the Bus, and Many of Them are Alls”

In the new emerging community being formed by Mission Developer, Pastor Anders Peterson under the sponsorship of my congregation, First United Lutheran Church, we are finding the truth of these perspectives. Mission, defined as converting people to Christianity, does not work with this group. Openness to other religious traditions is essential. This is not to say that we deny or water down who we are; we do our work in the world as Christians. But we do it as Christians who have worked through the intrafaith questions that are raised by many as they are confronted with this population. According to the Rev. Bud Heckman, senior advisor to Religions for Peace USA in New York City:

“A couple of decades ago this category accounted for no more than a single-digit percentage of the population. Today it accounts for one of every five people in the States, and one in every three amongst those under 30 years of age. The numbers are even higher in Europe and China. This means there is a great deal of fluidity in identity that is socially permissible in ways that simply were not true before.”
“Five Things Changing the Way Religions Interact

We do not know what Mahatma Gandhi would make of our world today. However it is clear that, both within Christianity and on the interfaith scene, the spiritual independents must be part of the interfaith and intrafaith conversations.

  • Do you know someone who would be considered spiritually independent? If so, have you had or could you have a conversation with that person about what they believe?
  • Are you a spiritual independent? How would you describe your spirituality?