If you read the literature about faith communities today, it is hard to ignore the statistics about decline, aging congregations, the spiritual but not religious…and the future looks bleak. In desperation we keep looking for the answer through strategic planning, writing mission statements, organizing for action, and pub theology. Our impulse is to do something.
Spiritual direction calls us to sit with this anxiety, this desperation, and discern. The practice is one of deep listening. The practice is to sit in the unknowing and not try to solve a problem. If we immerse ourselves in listening, what do we discern? What do we know? What are we called to be? What do we discern as our beloved community in this world?
We hear the voices of Martin Luther King, James Luther Adams, Henry Nelson Wieman, Howard Thurman, Rebecca Parker, Serene Jones, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Brene Brown. Whose voices do you hear?
Psychiatrist Gerald May writes, “When the spiritual life feels so uprooted, it can almost be impossible to believe—or even to consider—that what is really going on is a graceful process of liberation—a letting go of old limiting habits to make room for fresh openness to love.” In their Christian Century article, “Dark Night of the Church, relearning the essentials” [subscription required], L. Roger Owens and Anthony Robinson, put it this way:
How countercultural it would be for a church in a narrative of decline, with a need for visionary leaders to lead it out of confusion, pain and decline to have a leader who would be a friend for its soul. The leader would encourage the church to consider…that instead of fleeing our anxiety we should sit with it and let the process unfold. What kind of leader would that be?
Spiritual direction calls us to discern our openness to love. It calls us to this individually, in community,and to manifest this love in our service to the world.
We can do this in the center of our communities and congregations. Isn‘t it time for liberation?