By: Thomas Chavez, Heather Dennis & Julie Gorham
“We don’t want anybody telling us what to do, what to think, or what to believe!” This was the first thing out of anyone’s mouth at the inaugural gathering of what was to become Christ the Healer, United Church of Christ. This focus group had been called together by Gabrielle and I, and we got our fundamental marching orders from its participants: in twenty-four years there has never once been a preaching service at CtH, UCC. And in these twenty-four years of existence, we can honestly affirm that no two meetings of our group have been carbon copies of each other.
That is not to say that preaching has never happened among us. When new folk discover that we are a group that has practiced the art of listening to one another (Friends in Grace), many take this as their big chance. When this happens pontification, glittering generalities, and personal opinion are likely to flow over us like glop from an overheated glue pot. But, what is most valuable is to hear the visitor’s personal experience, unvarnished efforts at self-evolvement, and interactions with spirit (however achieved). We are not so interested in their conclusions, surmises, doctrines, and declarations of “You damned well should.” In this manner, through group exploration, shared and individual study, hard-won experience, and practice, we all learn. And in learning, we teach one another. Eventually everyone figures this out, or moves on.
For those who stick around, this process has been both satisfying and extraordinarily enlightening. But nobody gets the benefit who did not invest in their evolution by making the commitment to heal, and allowing the necessary time to grow. This requires being willing to lovingly face the deeper realities within, together.
Spiritual growth is not a cookie-cutter process, and the old methods often leave people feeling dissatisfied and stuck in life. This journey has demanded that we examine the long and somewhat tortured history of our Christian heritage. Here, we are sharing with you our most valuable treasures from this close examination which apply to us today. This will be more complicated than it sounds because everything about our Christian “thought world” affects everything else in that ecosystem of belief.
Christianity is like a single tapestry of understanding, every thread pulling upon every other. When we come to understand any one thing about scripture or tradition more completely, everything else that we believe naturally shifts to make room for this change in our understanding. One of the greatest challenges Christian truth-seekers face is that there are so many varied interpretations of Biblical wisdom and instruction. How do we interpret teachings of a God who appears in parts jealous, angry, and vengeful, and yet claims to be loving? How do we make sense of the iconoclastic Rabbi – Jesus Christ – we meet in the pages of the New Testament? Because there are so many seeming contradictions within scripture, it seems almost inevitable for there to be divisions, and regrettably, conflicts arising from them.
Most of us learned what we know about Christianity from Sunday school, sermons, and regular Bible studies, but there is a rich world of knowledge beyond this. The teachings we encounter through such devotions are often valuable, but may be incomplete and in need of closer examination.
If you are feeling incomplete in your understanding of Christianity, and searching for a more unified, compassionate perspective, then we hope that you find the reflections shared in our blogs riveting, delightful, and illuminating.
What if The genius exhibited by Jesus through his commandments, parables and living example, and thus the “true” Christianity that grows from that genius is way, way more than we have ever known? Come, help us find out!