A newspaper reporter, journalist interviewed me yesterday. As it turns out, he already new everything about me. I guess that means he is good at his job. Though, he asked me why ministry? Was my family religious?
A word I would never use to describe my family or really myself. I was active in the neighborhood United Methodist Church as a young person. My mom and step dad were for a time too. My brother ambivalent, at best. My papa wanted nothing to do with organized religion but definitely had a spirit about him that was infectious. But, not religious, for sure. We all loved our holidays and holy days and candle lighting and blessing our dinners. But, more than that, I fell in love with the faith community. With the hope of large groups of people full of love and service to the world. It was like a party every Sunday, sometimes on Saturdays and occasionally week-long parties in the mountains or inner city serving those on the margins. When we came together we were clear about why we were there. We believed in something larger than ourselves. Call it God or Spirit or the teachings of Jesus ingrained on our hearts.
None of it felt dogmatic. None of it felt "religious." And, none of it felt rigid or judgey (I am not sure this is a word- but I like it).
If nothing else this "religious" or "church institution" upbringing of mine taught me what it means to provide faith-forming experiences. In 2009-2010ish I began to shift my language from the traditional Christian Education to Faith Formation in all the ways. Classroom- to Sanctuary, Curriculum to Personal Story, Crafts to Ritual, Games to Missional Activity, Bags of Potato Chips to Meals around a Table. Hospitality being at the heart of Christian Education- I mean Faith Formation.
I began to appreciate the works of:
* Rethinking Youth Ministry: www.rethinkingyouthministry.com
* Let's Kill Sunday School: www.crossgenlife.org
* Worshiping with Children: worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com
In times such as these we want to teach each other through experience, through practice, through ritual. The days of sitting in a classroom and hearing the words of another will not and mostly cannot teach us about what is holy and sacred in this world.
To have faith is to be able to recognize when and how the Holy Spirit is moving in our every day lives. One cannot learn this without participating. Without building relationship. Without creating. Without embodied experiences.
So if being religious means being devoted to providing deepening experiences, then, I guess I am religious. If religious means church-going, faithful to people, committed to the movement of the Spirit, then, I guess I am a religious person. If religious means doing everything I can to bring those people on the margins to the center- then, yes, I am religious.
But, if religious means being oppressive, unjust because I am blinded to reason and dogma- then, I am not religious. I am just a pastor, a shepherd helping a community to unfold the Kin-dom in their midst.