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14/9/2022 09:58:57 am
Thanks for your vital initiative.
19/9/2022 06:39:40 pm
There's a cat visiting my patio garden from time to time. He (I and others think of it as he but there's no chance of examining the evidence) takes long drinks of water from my watering can. He is beautiful and has the long legs and spots which suggest Bengal lineage. Sadly he has only one eye, probably as a result of a fight; local cat owners regard him as the neigbourhood bully.
21/9/2022 11:50:26 am
What is it about cats that can teach us so much about ourselves? The place I used to stay for retreats had a feral cat. It never entered the building, but would turn up twice a day for food that was provided by the Guest Brother. Every time I stayed I would watch this cat from my bedroom window, who waited patiently for his breakfast and tea and his patience was always rewarded. I have related to church communities since I was 15 both as an attender and later in life as an ordained member. Yet through all those years I never fully felt that going into the 'building' of the Church Institution was a place that I truly belonged or ineed wanted to. Somehow I was always a boundary-dweller - of the Church but not in the Church. Yes, I was fed by the local Christian communities to which I belonged, and I deeply arreciated and gave thanks for that fact. Yet, like the feral cat in this story, and maybe your story too, I was wary of entering too far in to an institution that, for me, so often got in the way of the sense of God's presence and often denied aspects of people's true humanity.
The stories are helpful and the range of responses gives points of connection to different parts of my journey. One of the things I got to wondering about is that the age of the narrators looks to be in the last third of a normal life span. I work with younger people and wondered if some of this applies or whether we're dealing with something that is a function to some degree of ageing. I do find some younger people resonate with some of the concerns expressed but also more willing to tolerate the negativities of institutional church probably for the sake of connecting with others -maybe. Certainly I recognise something of that dynamic in my own journey through life and faith. There's more to be discussed in this, but maybe raising the matter might bring more perspectives to the observation?
27/9/2022 04:45:58 pm
Very interesting, Andii, that you meet younger people who are 'more willing to tolerate the negativities of institutional church' because of its social benefits. My experience is quite different in the sense that most of the younger people I talk with are much more inclined to see no point (and a lot of things which they don't like) in church and church going. I've grown through many iterations of what might be called churchmanship, from fundamentalist independent via FIEC, Baptist and liberal Anglican to my current position as an erratic Quaker attender. My own children, whose family experience was mostly Baptist, wonder why I bother at all - they don't. But they do think, they do contemplate, they do wonder. They just don't see any need for church in order to do so.
I do also have experience, like you Pat, of younger people who simply don't connect their spirituality with institutional religion (or even actively see it as inimical). However, that still leaves me wondering about the age profile and the dynamics that may underlie it. I still wonder whether for a lot of younger people who do stick with churches, whether the social aspect is weighed more heavily than it is by some of us who have a 'been there done that' strand to our accumulated thinking. Obviously not in all cases as we've both attested. And now I think on, a number of older people stick with it for similar reasons. So, what is it about 'feral spirituality' that is drawing older voices? (And maybe whiter voices too?)
Sue (& Henry)
24/9/2022 05:32:07 pm
FROM SUE: I’ve read all the stories with great interest. I don’t know whether I’m feral or not (it seems such a strong word, wild almost) but I do know that I don’t fit in the institutional church any more. Reading Karen Armstrong’s latest book Sacred Nature: ‘A religious ritual should be a transformative event- it can never be a matter of simply going through the motions, however piously’. Church services for me feel like ‘going through the motions’. Where is the beauty, the mystery, the silent wondering. I feel bogged down in a mass of words. There is another way of communicating that doesn’t involve talking! Your sense of being free when you left stipendiary ministry resonates very strongly with my sense of feeling free when I came out of the monastery. Though I believed it was of God I continue to wonder if it was just me wanting to ‘do my own thing’. I have to trust.
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Just wanting to say “yes” to this. You will be speaking for, and to, many. I will certainly be passing this on to others, and will contribute some thoughts myself later.
So, I was delighted to see Feral Spirituality make an appearance. I'd think you could find many wanting to join in