I am sitting in my kitchen, alone; my husband has taken my children out in the snow for a walk with his mum. As we are only allowed to meet outdoors with a maximum of 2 adults at the moment, this gives me a morning to myself, which I am grateful for. I told myself that I wasn’t going to spend this precious time on screen, but the pull to journal my thoughts this morning proves victorious.
For the last few months, I have been questioning where I stand on religion. Most weeks I try to tune into the zoom worship from the church of my childhood. Religion aside, I have found this to be extremely uplifting. But its almost verges on a guilty pleasure: I never turn my camera on and I don’t always make it known at home that I am sneaking on for a listen, passing it off as just another podcast. I observe that the regulars in the congregation are all older people, I am by far and away the youngest; and there are no families in attendance.
For some reason, I feel uncomfortable admitting to being part of a congregation. Perhaps I don’t like the idea of group-think? I ponder in western-world, middle-income, faux angst-ridden wacky-libertarian anti-establishment disgust. Hang on a minute. This isn’t the authentic me, because – like it or not – I do feel my faith.
And feeling it out as to what that actually means to me more and more as I go along. I am pleased to discover that there are no rules; and these days it doesn’t matter if you want to cherry pick a few different bits and bobs from other gurus along the way. My inner sanctum is a broad and welcoming one.
I’m learning that faith is something quite different to religion, although undoubtedly they are inseparably intertwined. I think faith is available without religion; but religion is not available without faith. My faith, as it has developed and been enhanced in adult form over lockdown is firmly rooted in one word. Hope. I have felt hopeless a couple of times in my life, and it is a very slippery slope to climb. So Hope is always a good place to start if there is nothing else.
When I think about church and the word Hope; I am led on to think about “the good news” as a thing and then the “fellowship” that is required to spread news of Hope. This is even before I turn to think about the He and the Him of religious text that is supposedly most relevant to me. I suppose, technically speaking I am a Christian. That is my church, and I was christened as a child as part of a common place joyful “welcome to the world new baby” celebration, rather than with any honest expectation that I would live by the letter forever more. For this reason, having been christened doesn’t mean very much to me.
Of course nowadays a person could eliminate fellowship (in a tangible community sense) by connecting online with anyone in the world on any subject of shared interest. This has its pros and cons. For me on the specific topic of faith, it has been a pro; I would never have scratched this itch in person without zoom. I wonder if I would have sought more fellowship eventually, regardless of my added need for Hope in these crazy times. I guess we shall never know.
So I turn to a little about what faith means to me. I will keep this brief as I want to use my silent time wisely to get some air.
There isn’t really an answer, as it is continually evolving to fit with what the universe throws my way. Right now, as I mentioned – I listen to the sermons for stories to inspire Hope in me and my Hope for better times in the world generally. I’m not sure I pray, in the traditional sense anyway, and so when the congregation joins to do this I prefer to listen in Hope rather than prayer; faith with a sprinkling of religion. I have drastically cut my time watching news bulletins to mitigate my loss of Hope from Sunday to Sunday, so that my cup can remain as full as possible. Sunday sermons lift me up and the church I attend is fortunate to have a minister who delivers thought provoking moral tales based on learnings from the bible that are actually applicable to real life right now. He is also clear that many bible stories are unlikely to be grounded in any fact, nor are they to be taken literally. This approach I like. They are good news stories that help us consider “what would a wise person do” in the face of challenge or adversity. The Rev spoke about Captain Tom Moore today and the collective sadness of his passing, but also of the amazing story of his life and how he has captured and taught the British nation about spirit, positivity, resilience and courage. He asked how we would like to reflect upon life when nearing the end, or how we would be remembered. This is all basic, obvious stuff. But how often is light and quiet free time thrown on this, to allow us to think of it by day; as opposed to ruminating in misery, alone at 3am about whatever corner we are backed into.
This is a snapshot of my living faith today; perhaps I will journal some thoughts on death and faith in more detail using the words “strength” and “courage” for the living and what I might hope for loved ones in death. I don’t think using religion and faith for these things is wrong even for someone as a non-believer. I personally feel that the love lost and grief needs somewhere to go in the depths of despair; even if it is imagining that the person is sitting on a favourite park bench on a sunny day watching the world carry on before them.
Anyway, those are my unfiltered thoughts for the day. Have a great one!