Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why I stopped going to church on Sundays:

Every weekday morning I get up at 5am. I could sleep until 5:30am and still get to work on time through the morning commute, but I've added the extra half hour so that I can meditate. That half hour of meditation has become extremely important to me and it sets the tone for the rest of the day. It has become my core spiritual practice.

The most challenging aspect of my early morning meditation practice is that I'm not a morning person. My natural cycle would probably be to sleep from 2am until 10am. Through sheer discipline (and exhaustion) I manage to get myself to sleep on weeknights usually by 10:30 or 11pm. This means that I operate at a sleep deficit. Until the weekend, that is. On Saturday and Sunday my wife and I gloriously sleep in, usually until 9 or 10am. Then we lollygag around the house for as long as we feel like lollygagging (which is sometimes all day).

I have discovered the meaning of sabbath.

"But," I can hear certain preachers preaching, "the Bible says 'do not forsake gathering together'." We don't. What we have forsaken is sitting in rows on Sunday morning like a passive audience, singing along with a worship band and then listening to someone give a sermon. I don't think that was what the author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews had in mind when he/she advised about meeting together.

Our solution to "meeting together" has become to attend smaller meetings during weekday evenings. For example, on Thursday evenings we attend a predominantly Buddhist group who meets in a Christian church for meditation and discussion. We find it nourishing. We recently visited another, unrelated, group that meets on Tuesday evenings. We may add that group to our schedule. Or there is a small group that meets on Wednesday nights in an Episcopal church for Centering Prayer that we want to visit. We're trying out the methodology of belonging to multiple (and diverse) small groups where we can show up (or not show up) on any given week with flexibility. We're exploring ecclesial polyculture instead of monoculture.

In my book, 'Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community', I wrote about small, simple, contemplatively-oriented gatherings as an adjunct to or a replacement for traditional Sunday morning church services. We're finding that once we shifted our paradigm and priorities, to make weekends for sabbath, early weekday mornings for personal spiritual practice and weeknights for "gathering together" with small interactive spiritual-practice groups, things seemed to click into place for us. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's working for us.


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