The greatest churches I have been to, I’ve never crossed the threshold of. I couldn’t give you directions to them, or tell you ahead of time.
I’ve simply found myself in the midst of them as they have risen around me. Great cathedrals of human expression… Songs of triumph, hope and victory, psalms of despair and suffering shared through the rhythms of shared humanity that seem to rose up from the earth.
I know one thing to be true: genuine spirituality of any form is both individual and shared. Both elements are required for authenticity. A genuine internal engagement and shared common experience.
That raw spirituality, the ruach Elohim, the wai rua that rises when humanity reaches outside of it’s current self and toward something other… That is where I have been to church, rarely on a Sunday.
In a swathe of human diversity, in dark halls devoted to melody, in moving picture shows seated next to strangers..In concert halls, food halls and markets where plates are shared and passed. Where sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are swamped in sensory experience.
These are the great churches of my generation.
Too often, contemporary spiritual or religious practice has stripped “church” down to programmes and attendence, formalised patterns of reverence and expression. There is beauty and wonder in it, yes. But before we had liturgy, before we had structure, before we had church doors and pews – humanity has had stories, songs and music. We’ve sung our blues, our joys and our sufferings. We share language of human experience this way, we share language of divine encounters this way.
It is no surprise that music festivals draw out thousands, or that Burning Man encourages something in the soul that yearns for a gritty spirituality. These gatherings evoke the primal in us.
We ought to rid ourselves of any flimsy thread of cleanliness or tidiness between spirituality and humanity. It’s all dirt and grit and messiness, and we’re the better for it. We ought to rid ourselves of the straightlined pews more often when seeking genuine spiritual encounters.
When we loose ourselves into the dust or rhythm of a dance we learn as we go along – we realign to the balance of humanity and divinity in Creation. We ought to do it more often and at every chance.
So go to concerts, play live music. Buy a drum and bang it with your bare feet toes down in the grass. Breathe. Connect. Go to church.