We need to be generous in our spirituality (Sarah Agnew)

Sarah AgnewSarah Agnew says we need to be generous in our spirituality.

I'm enjoying the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at the moment and I have just read of her reflections at the end of her time in India.

She's talking about the need she sees her friends have for ritual, for a sacred place. These are friends for whom the religious/spiritual tradition of their childhood or family no longer holds meaning, or who have no such tradition.

When life takes us to the depth of experiences like joy and grief, we are provoked to want to make meaning of those experiences, of life. Many seek help in this, some sort of ritual or a sacred space, something to mark the moment, to honour the connection with the sacred/divine/God they've discovered.

This – this – is why I am so passionate about fresh expressions of church. Because the Christian church is one such tradition that can (and should) offer rituals and sacred spaces in which to make meaning of the human experience, of our encounters with the Holy.

But in my context (the west) more often than not people don't know about Christian spirituality, they have no experience of the church, or have bad experiences, see unhelpful stereotyped images in media or the arts, and don't feel they can go to the Christian church in their spiritual need.

The Christian church can (and should) offer rituals and sacred spaces in which to make meaning of the human experience

So people of Christian spirituality must venture forth out of the confines of the complacent 'church' in order to be present where people are being human, where the sacred is breaking through into their lives, in order to offer the gift of our tradition in these moments.

Interesting in Liz Gilbert's reflections is the generosity and humility of eastern spirituality, which doesn't presume to offer the one and only true path to God, but acknowledges and affirms that there are many paths, and each of us must find the path most authentic for who we are. I find that so beautiful, it warms my heart. I wish Christian spirituality was this generous more often.

Oh, the other thing that struck me in these two or three chapters was about the need for reform. 'Inevitably even the most original new ideas will eventually harden into dogma or stop working for everybody' Gilbert says at one point.

I wonder if this describes the Christian church? What was once an original idea about how to live out our Christian spirituality has now hardened and stopped working for a lot of people…

Before the above comment, Gilbert says, 'Religious rituals often develop out of mystical experimentation. Some brave scout goes looking for a new path to the divine, has a transcendental experience and returns home a prophet.' Others follow this path, but inevitably, a new path must be found.

I wonder if what we're looking for isn't quite a new path; for Christians, Jesus Christ is the path we follow to the Divine. I wonder if it is the way we're living on that path that we haven't changed in a while and which no longer works.