“Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.” ― The Dalai Lama
Why do we gather together? Why do we worship in community? Why is it important to continue to find faith together? Why do we gather in groups in sacred space? Still? Why is it important? Is it important?
I think of our group, or groups, like a tree.
Groups, community, make us feel safe. It’s the foundation. The primal urge for safety and protection. These are the roots. It’s a place where we catch each other. Pray for one another. Support one another through the joys of life…and the sorrows of life; the things we witness each week in our Joys, Sorrows, and Concerns. Our roots are where we feel protected, but also protect. We each have purpose and in sacred community we feel that purpose.
The roots include a place where we keep good company. Company that has common goals and common ways of looking at life and the world. We have a common/safe/familiar history. We have a common/safe/familiar Book. We have a common/safe/familiar story that grounds us. Roots us.
I feel it is at the root level that a basic foundation of Sunday School is important. Education. It sets the foundation of a common/safe/familiar story from which to grow from. The community of adults/elders helps to provide the water of community to feel safe to explore, grow, and question. As we grow, our questions deepen.
The strength of the roots impacts how much the tree can grow. Or, perhaps, how fast one can grow.
This foundation, the roots, grow up a trunk into branches. From this place of safety and familiarity we can begin to reach out. We support one another on our journeys through the trials of living. We support good work in the community and the world at large. Often from common interests that make the reaching out easy and also learning to work in group and supporting interests that might not be our own. We have a pool of resources of time and energy and even money to do Good Work.
The branches may stretch even more and we support one another through the challenges of faith. Diversity within groups helps us to question how we want to be in the world. How we support even when we differ. Perhaps we begin to question our own faith, ideas, and teachings. This is okay. This is growth. This is challenge. To pretend we don’t question or not understand is to stunt growth. These are the higher branches of the tree, reaching for more, and more susceptible to the winds of challenge.
We can close off and clip the branches. Or we can spread those branches.
The practice begins in the safe community. Then, we can reach out even further to be a force of support and good in the world. Listening and learning from communities outside our inner circles that don’t carry the common/safe/familiar stories and histories. A world with ideas and stories that may really challenge us and make us want to retreat or divide. A world that makes us want to withdraw and disconnect.
For me, I feel like the church is like my Yoga Mat. I lay it out and it’s safe and cozy. My own space that no one steps on. I get to practice from a place of safety with only a few safe people around me–the people who are part of my Sangha (community) who are on the same journey with common goals and interests. But, to truly grow, I have to step off of my mat. I have to step out of the sanctuary. Out of my comfort zone and do the work in the greater world. Challenge myself for a bigger purpose. But I always have my mat and my church. I’ve build solid roots and they’re there to come back to.
The stability of the roots, and the light and water to nourish, supports how far the branches can reach. Roots are stability and safety. That is why we gather together in community to share faith. Roots and stability to question and grow and learn. Roots to stabilize us as we stretch our branches to touch the unfamiliar.
I just finished reading Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor. I took away this lovely point from her: as she was exploring what is beautiful in other Faiths, she comes back to her own. The best thing about Christianity is Jesus. What about him? Love. Compassion. Challenge. The path Jesus walked wasn’t easy. The path he asked of his disciples wasn’t easy. It’s often not easy to be loving and compassionate.
The best way we can share the beauty of our faith is to emulate these qualities of Jesus. Love and Compassion and even Challenge. How do we best do that? By practicing. Gathering together, supporting one another, to help each of us to become the best versions of ourselves. We do this by supporting and challenging one another. By listening to each of our Joys, Sorrows, and Concerns. By reaching out into the world to spread Goodness and Kindness.
And by coming back Home to that space to fill the well and nourish the roots when we begin to feel a little ungrounded, unstable, and undernourished.
By creating a shared sacred space where all are welcome. Welcome to our shared, sacred space (especially to our new members).
Love & Blessings.