Saturday, February 7, 2009

life is a journey...

"life is a journey, not a destination" is almost cliché, but for me, it is true nonetheless. this is especially true with regard to my faith journey.

i was raised in a very devout southern baptist family. for as far back as i can remember, weekly church attendance was assumed. for most of that time, weekly meant sunday school and worship on sunday morning, 'training union' and worship on sunday evening, and prayer meeting on wednesday evening.

implicit in my upbringing was that the bible was to accepted in more or less literal terms, and questioning that basic assumption was something akin to blasphemy.

my first 'mistake' was, i suppose, trying to make sense of what i was being told to believe. i tried. really. i tried to believe what i was taught, the way i was taught, but i just couldn't. of course, since admitting that i just couldn't believe the 'accepted teachings' would be 'blasphemy', i kept that information to myself.

i remember how liberating it felt when, as an undergraduate, i learned that there were people who actually questioned the same things that i did. for the first time, i actually felt free to think about what it was that i personally believed.

my sojourn has taken me from my upbringing as a southern baptist, to a pastorate in the united methodist church, back to a baptist church as a layman, then back to the united methodist church as a layman and then another pastorate, a stint as a pulpit supply, then a period as an occasional lay member of a united methodist church, then moving to the presbyterian church, where i have been for the last 15 years, in varying levels of involvement.

my beliefs, however, are not what would be considered mainstream for the presbyterian church, at least as far as my local presbytery is concerned. my personal beliefs would probably be best characterized as reflecting the liberal quaker perspective.

a couple of weeks ago, i made my first visit to an unprogrammed friends (quaker) meeting. the meeting was in conway, sc, in a building that serves as an ecumenical food pantry for the local area. there were six people in attendance besides my wife and me. it was a very different experience. the meeting began, after brief introductions, with us singing a few hymns. three actually, the eight of us singing a capella. the hymns were the same hymns i was familiar with, though on two of three, i noticed subtle differences in the words, changes that reflected the quaker beliefs. after the hymns, the next forty five minutes were spent in silent prayer and meditation, or expectant waiting. no one spoke. at the end of the meeting, we greeted those next to us, there was some comment about plans for the next week, and the meeting adjourned to refreshments and fellowship.

i've been reflecting on that experience for a couple weeks now. i enjoyed being in the presence of like minded people, for a change. sometimes i feel like i have very little in common with the people sitting next to me in church. it's more than a little frustrating sometimes.

my plan, at this point, is to follow this post with a series of posts outlining some of the beliefs that are most important to me at this point. i don't know if this will interest any readers or not, but hopefully it will be a fruitful exercise for me, at least.

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