A Summer of Philosophy: Connecting With Others While Honoring Oneself

A reflection by community member John Shuba:

At the worship committee meeting earlier this week, I agreed to lead everyone in the call to worship and benediction, bookending this week's service.  Both pieces were prayers that spoke directly to god and referenced Jesus' divinity.
As time passed I began to be more uncomfortable with the idea of leading all of you in these prayers.  I have never been involved in religion.  Most of my life I have been a vehement, unapologetic atheist.  I have never prayed, even silently to myself.
I have only put real thought into god in the last year or two, and I am still working on my own definition and philosophy about what god might be.  And while I have come to admire Jesus and his teachings, I do not consider myself a Christian and do not "feel" any special relationship between Jesus and whatever god is.  
If there is a god, regardless of the definition, it must be a pretty big deal.  And if you can literally talk to god through prayer then that is not something to take lightly.  For me to lead these prayers would be insincere.  It just didn't feel right.
With this in mind I contacted Jennifer a few hours before the service and informed her that Elizabeth (my wife) would be leading the call to worship and benediction. I explained my reasons why.  Not surprisingly, Jennifer accepted my decision without scorn or censure, and invited me to perhaps lead a future, sincere prayer if my journey takes me there.  
Which brings me to Sunday's service, highlighted by Dr. Lee Barrett and his discussion about what makes a church.  To summarize (excessively) Dr. Barrett presented churches as groups of people who gather together and share common heritage, common belief, common feelings and/or common practices.  He then asked us which of these commonalities applies to The Other Church.  
And none of us could say definitively that ANY of those commons applied to The Other Church.  What we did have in common was not what we believed to be the "correct" way to worship, but that all of us have heavy unanswered questions about the mysteries of life.  We don't come to The Other Church seeking institutionalized answers.  We come to explore those questions within our community.  Our members don't all have the same questions, but all of us have the right to ask our questions, no matter how unconventional, and to discuss them with each other in an effort to broaden our perspective and understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.  
This was exemplified by my hesitation to lead a prayer and Jennifer's acceptance of my decision.  And THAT is what I like about The Other Church.

We are bombarded with what to believe and why. But how much time do we take to sort through what we actually believe? How much time do we allow those beliefs to be digested into convictions? John Donne wrote a beautiful poem, "No man is an island." We think he was on to something important when it comes to one's philosophical and religious ideas. Some questions to ponder this week:

  1. How do you meaningfully connect with others? Is that connection dependent upon something shared? If so, what?
  2. How do you meaningfully connect with yourself? Do you take time to listen to what is going on within you? If so, how often? If not, why not?
  3. How do you meaningfully connect with God? How are you both challenged and encouraged in your faith?