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Discussion in 'Spiritual Growth & Development' started by Celera, Sep 18, 2013.

  1. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    I've had an interesting journey through the world of religion.

    When I was little, we went to a Presbyterian church. It became quite liberal and political, though, and my parents were conservative and my mother said she could just read the paper and hear the same things she heard at church, so we stopped going. After a while we started going to evangelical and later Pentecostal or charismatic churches (with speaking in tongues and all that.)

    In adult life, I've been an Pentecostal, a Methodist, and mostly a heathen. I still believe in many things about Christianity, and many of the stories and rituals have meaning to me, even if it isn't quite the meaning they had when I was younger. I've done a fair amount of reading on Buddhism, and find a lot of value there as well.

    Reading and thinking about spirituality and faith are great, and I'm comfortable, but I also think that religion isn't working right if it's too comfortable. It should be challenging me to grow in some way, and to be of service in some way. For this reason, I have been missing being part of a spiritual community.

    So the last two weeks, I have been attending a local Quaker meeting. There are two kinds of Quakers these days, some are pretty much like any Protestant church, but the "liberal" Quakers follow an old tradition in their services, or meetings. They have no program, no minister, and no songs or sermons. The group sits in silence for an hour, waiting for the Spirit to speak to each of them. If someone feels led to do so, they stand up and say a few words or even sing a song. Often nobody says anything until the hour is up.

    I find I like this much better than "regular" church services of all kinds, and the people are very genuine and unpretentious, which is not easy to find here in Orange County, CA.

    So, that's my story so far. Is anyone else familiar with Quakerism? Or what other religious community belong to, or have belonged to in the past? How does that fit (or not) with your understanding of the Afterlife?
     
  2. mac

    mac long-term contributor Staff Member

    I'm not a churchgoer but suggest that seekers investigate if it's right for them.

    Some years back I had difficulty finding local venues where we could hold our 'spooks' - Spiritualist - gatherings where evidential mediumship would routinely be included as part of the evenings activities. The nearby Quaker church offered their meeting place and at that time it seemed to me that their way was very much in line with our own (Spiritualist) persuasion.

    I was impressed by the unfussiness of the meeting place and although I didn't sit with their congregation, the 'old way' sounds like an ideal situation for anyone with spiritual/psychic sensitivity to sit in an undemanding atmosphere and maybe offer their impressions. I greatly admire that there is no minister, no service and no formal songs or hymns. A quiet place to sit and think or sit and switch off.
     
  3. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

    I haven't been to church in years. I grew up Catholic, though I had a wonderful experience with it as a child because the church and the priests there were great, very non-exclusionary. We moved when I got older, and the new church sucked. I stopped going as soon as I could. I became agnostic at some point, though I'm really not sure when. Sometime around college, though I don't recall any one event which caused it or anything.

    For years I considered myself a "hopeful agnostic" -- I wasn't sure if there was a god, but I hoped so, and I had my ideas as to what I thought god was all about if s/he did exist. Now that my husband has died, I am agnostic verging on atheist. I doubt if I will ever attend a church again.

    I do like the Quaker way of doing things, though -- it's very egalitarian. I also like that they are very liberal, and very involved in social causes. I like the Unitarian Universalists, too. With both of those faiths I have sort of the opposite view from Gandhi -- he said "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.", whereas I like the Quakers and the Unitarians, but not god.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  4. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    The liberal Quakers do seem similar to the Unitarian/Universalists, in that there is no particular doctrine or statement of faith or anything. I'm not sure why I never found the UU very compelling, I agree with the concept that all religions have some part of the truth, and no religion has the whole truth.

    The Quakers have more of a sense of history to them, and a specific culture and principles. They don't seem to be judgmental about it, but they do have certain "testimonies" which seem like a values statement, sort of. Among these are non-violence, simplicity and truthfulness. And, I'm down with all that.

    In the US generally, and my neck of the woods particularly, finding people who value simplicity and plainness is not easy!
     
  5. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

    Celera,

    I think sometimes people don't find the UU compelling because, depending on the group/church, some of them don't have a strong belief in any sort of "god". In fact, it is my understanding that some of them don't believe in god at all, and don't hold that as a necessary prerequisite for joining their congregation. They are (or at least some/many of them are) much more about helping other people and social causes than they are about god or faith or spirituality or religion, and they are almost always very liberal (or at least that's been my experience). I used to work with a woman who was (still is) a UU minister (this was a few years ago). I really liked her, and attended one of her sermons. I also proofread and edited her doctoral thesis, which was on the subject of the church and its relation to kids/teens and their experience with sexuality (its responsibility to help them have healthy sexualities, in which they respected themselves and their partner(s), etc.). It was a fascinating subject and thesis.

    So the way the UU approaches things is fine by me, although I never joined it because in the past i never felt the need to belong to a church and now I wouldn't do so for any amount of money. but lots of people want a more spiritual experience of some sort, want to feel connected to god, etc. -- so for them, the UU is probably not a great fit, unless they find one of the groups that does tend to have a belief in god, more spiritual services, etc., as opposed to only the social justice component.

    The Quakers do have history, I agree. they are a lot like the UU, except that they do have that history and gravitas, and they do have a faith in god. And yeah, since your profile states that you are in southern CA, I would think that simplicity and plainness is not in great supply around there....
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  6. Pinkroses

    Pinkroses Member

    Hi Celera and Bluebird,
    I was raised Catholic. I never had a problem with it, but it didn't seemed to fully explains things or answer my questions. When I met my husband, he was raised Methodist and was agnostic. He wanted nothing to do with the Catholic Church, so we got married in a Methodist church. Later in life, we decided we wanted to find a church that was right for us. We started visiting different churches. We kind of liked Lutheran churches because they seemed to be in between Methodist and Catholic. We also considered UU. I still want to go to a spiritualist church someday. Oddly, we ended up at a Catholic Church. I honestly don't know why. It sort of happened by accident. The good thing about this church is that it is more modern and the priest there is open-minded. It is probably the only Catholic Church I would feel comfortable at because my beliefs are actually a mixture of several religions.

    I like the feeling I get when going to church -- the candles, the songs and the sermons leave me feeling peaceful and uplifted. However, religion isn't where my understanding of the afterlife came. It actually came through my own experiences. In fact, a few years ago I started to wonder if there even was an afterlife at all. Then my ex-boyfriend died and strange things started happening. It was only then that I started reading, researching and trying to figure things out. I even participated in the self-guided afterlife connections program and received many answers and insights during my connections.

    I think each person's path is unique, and everyone chooses their own way depending on their life circumstances and what feels right. I also think it doesn't really matter which religion or belief system we choose. All paths lead to the same place. It's just a matter of preference.
     
  7. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    I sometimes find the atmosphere of a traditional church service to be inspiring too, and I know there are people of deep faith who find a lot of meaning in the liturgy. I can imagine being happy in a Catholic church with a traditional service and a more open-minded view of things. This is the way a lot of the big Protestant churches are now, too.

    There are some spiritualist churches in Northern California, but I couldn't find any near me, even in LA. Meetup.com has a number of groups around related topics, but none that seem devoted to the afterlife specifically, and I don't want to join any groups where one person says she's a wood nymph and another says the Archangel Gabriel is her boyfriend (I'm not making either of those things up.)
     
  8. Pinkroses

    Pinkroses Member

    There are a couple of spiritualist churches here in Michigan, about 45 minutes away. One day I will check one out. I wouldn't want to join a group like the ones you mentioned either. And I know you're not making it up. I once came across someone who said she had a relationship with Lucifer. She said he was teaching her things and that they also had sex. Okay then.

    I've thought about going to a mediumship development meeting, but I guess I'm a bit afraid of what will happen. I'm not concerned I won't be able to do it. I just don't want everyone's dead friends and relatives contacting me! It's fine when it's someone I know personally, but to open up to anything and anyone would be overwhelming!
     
  9. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    I have the opposite fears about a mediumship development meeting. I think I'd love being like that Long Island Medium, going around with messages for people, I wouldn't mind that at all. Perhaps the actual experience would be different from what I imagine. I like knowing things, so being the one who knows something nobody else knows, appeals to my ego. Which is probably why I have not been entrusted that gift. :)

    But my fear of failure -- or at least public failure -- is pretty strong. Which is another advantage of the Quaker meeting format. It would be tough to fail at sitting quietly for an hour and thinking.
     
  10. WWE LOVER

    WWE LOVER New Member

    Meh, I don't know about this. I was never a fan of Quaker oatmeal...
     
  11. lorrieclaudia

    lorrieclaudia New Member

    Quaker oatmeal is used by our family since '90 and we tried other brands but still this is our fav. oatmeal brand. :)
     
  12. Birki

    Birki Member

    I attended an unprogrammed Quaker meeting for several years, but stopped going. I have great respect for Quakers, but I realized I am not a Quaker. It felt too limiting to me. I was raised and confirmed Roman Catholic, but I am definitely not Catholic. I don't attend any religious services at the moment, and I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
  13. Jesse85uk

    Jesse85uk New Member

    I went to a Christian primary school, but my experience with "religion" has generally not been very positive.

    When I was 5 or 6 years old, 2-3 years after my mother's death, my father tried going to church and wanted to get me baptized (my mom was raised a Roman Catholic) and felt the church group would be good for me.....but the priest refused because my Dad could not commit to going to church every Sunday due to work.

    I grew up in a small village and my experience with the church has been nothing but snobbery and hippocrits. Our neighbour had an affair with another neighbour through the church group and it was very much an unwelcoming environment where people seem to go to gossip about people in the village and pat each other on the back because they're "doing good" by baking cakes for the after service club.

    The problem with organized religion IMO is that it opens the door for a lunacy of fanatics of every denomination that will justify their actions by calling it the will of God. It's not religion in itself - it's people....and all people are fallible.

    Of course, religion is a broad term, but generally I find religion too limiting and makes many people self righteous in their attitude.

    I love churches and enjoy being with people who are spiritual regardless of what religion they choose to follow, but I'm always slightly wary of any organization where you have large groups of people together trying to claim God.

    I do not respect a person based on their beliefs, religion or knowledge....but by their actions.

    At the basis of all religion is the same principles - love & compassion. You can not learn how to practice those things by rituals or ceremonies.
     
  14. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    I could go for hours on this topic, having been both well- and ill-served by Christians and churches over the years.

    One thing I like about the liberal Quakers is that they are almost entirely without doctrines or ceremony. They have some principles, such as pacifism and simplicity and honesty. They use the Bible but believe that divine revelation is ongoing and personal, hence the service where people sit in silence and only speak if they feel led to do so. They make no claim to be the one right way, in fact they are quite open and welcoming to people from other religious traditions.

    Rituals and ceremonies have their place in our psyche. They bind communities and generations together. Jewish adherence to ceremony and tradition has maintained their sense of a common heritage through centuries of diaspora. I know people who find deep meaning and inspiration in traditional liturgy -- but they also try to live with integrity and humility on a daily basis, and when they fail they admit it. Ritual and ceremony should be ways to reinforce faith and character, although sadly they often become a substitute for both.

    What passes for mainstream Christianity in the US these days is mostly revolting. I'm not telling anyone they should go to church. But for myself, I'm not comfortable with the idea that I can be "spiritual" through solitary pursuits alone. Being "spiritual but not religious" is easy and comfortable for me, which makes me suspicious that I'm not doing enough. Spirituality is reinforced by and acted out in community, a community that gives and takes and holds each other accountable. If one can find a church environment that takes this seriously, I think it's worthwhile -- but church is not the only way to go about it. For people who are more naturally outward-focused than I am, it may be enough to live according to your principles as you go about your daily life. But it's too easy for me to get wrapped up in myself, and the structure of a faith-based community helps me to be more balanced.
     
  15. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

    "Ritual and ceremony should be ways to reinforce faith and character, although sadly they often become a substitute for both."

    Very well said.
     
  16. Jesse85uk

    Jesse85uk New Member

    Great point Celera....think you hit the nail on the head. I'm not against rituals or ceremonies by any means as long as they are things which enrich or reinforce faith and character as opposed to a substitute as you mentioned. I'd love nothing more than to feel part of a spiritual community, but I've yet to find that in religion.

    To me, I see a lot of religion as a failed attempt to express spirituality.
     
  17. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

  18. Celera

    Celera Active Member

    I agree. G. K. Chesterton (himself a devout Catholic, I believe) said Christianity had not been tried and found wanting… rather it had been wanted and never tried.
     

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