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What is community? Why is community so important? What are the elements of community? In this eBulletin, which is Part 1 of 2, we explore these questions and more... You are our community! Thank you!
Creating Sacred Community
The busier our lives become, the more isolated we feel. And yet, we continue to busy our minds and our bodies so that we don't feel alone. It is quite the conundrum! Everytime I have a conversation with a friend who is feeling lost and confused it is clear to me that what they are missing is sacred community. Yes, community is always shifting and ideally we become comfortable in a world with shifting relationships as we become more grounded in the Self and more connected to the conscious observer of the human experience. However, it is within community that we can quiet the busy mind, the daily clutter and hold space for the evolution of the human journey. It is in community that we are held accountable for our behavior and supported in our trials and our joys. So, in this month's eBulletin we ask these questions- What is Sacred Community? How do we create it? Is church sacred community? Is family sacred community? And finally is sacred community necessary for a healthy happy life? We hope you enjoy this eBulletin as much as we did creating it. ~Deshna

Community Making

Fred Plumer


Several years ago, I was invited by a friend to attend a two-day workshop based on a program created by Scott Peck, the author of the well-known self-help book, The Road Less Traveled. This friend knew I was looking for ways to develop an active small group program in the congregation I was leading at the time. She was facilitator for a new organization, Foundation for Community Encouragement. This inspired group planned to lead community-building workshops all over the country based on a newer book Peck wrote in 1987, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Although this book was never as popular as his earlier books, I believe it is still one of the best books ever written about building true or sacred community. I had already read the book when my friend invited me to attend the workshop. Since I had been impressed by it, I agreed to go.

Scott Peck died in 2005 but the body of his work continues to inspire people all over the world. Most of what Peck wrote about in this book came out of his experiences in leading and observing literally thousands of workshops based on The Road Less Traveled. That book, written nearly ten years earlier than The Different Drum, was still on the best seller list. It remained on that list for over two decades.

In The Different Drum, Peck argued that finding and fostering real community may be the only way the world—or at least her inhabitants—will survive the future. Peck believed there are certain identifiable characteristics of what he called a true community that distinguish it from what he called a pseudo-community. In true community he writes that you find a “group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together and to delight in each other and make each other’s condition our own.’”   

READ ON...

We Are Community

An opening affirmation

Dan Senter 


Embraced by the mystery of God’s love for all creation
We are a community that looks for the light of Christ
The light that shines in every time, every place and every life

Within this dynamic community we foster connections and experiences that bring meaning to life and help us face the issues of our day.

Together, we strive to live with loving hearts, open minds and hands extended to all
We are community bathed in the love of God.

READ HERE...

Spiritual Community

Chris Glaser


Church is not for everyone. Even for those who like it, there are as many distractions as attractions to the spiritual life there. I thought of entitling this “spirituality for loners” because I want to suggest eight ways of experiencing spiritual community outside of church!

Read. I enjoy the most diverse, stimulating, informed, and wise spiritual community on my bookshelves! Fiction and non-fiction, sacred and profane, fantasy and factual—you name it, all connect me to other people, places, and things with whom and with which I may feel a spiritual kinship. Newspaper and magazine human interest stories, op-eds, obits, and news stories also open me to relationships often more spiritually intimate than possible in ordinary life. All are opportunities for witnessing spirituality at work for those who have eyes to see, fingers to feel Braille, or ears to hear recorded versions.

Pray. Immediately, praying puts us into a global and probably universal community of those lifting their hearts and their loved ones and even unloved ones to God, the eternal, the sacred, knitting our hearts with those with whom and for whom we pray. Prayer, meditation, and reflection make us more attentive to those we care about or want to care about, welcoming their presence in deeper ways.

Watch. Being mindful of surroundings wherever we are with all of our senses puts us in community with the material world. Matter matters. The touch of a fabric, the fragrance of a plant, the sound of rain, the vibration of a machine, the breath of a lover, the view from your favorite chair or mountain ridge—all remind us, in Madonna’s lyrics, that “we are material girls” and boys. And watching films and documentaries can take us to people and places and events we otherwise might never meet or visit or experience.

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Body of Christ: Body of Life

Sea Raven


The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?

The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”

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Can We Raise the Bar on Church Community?

Bruce Sanguin


I remember being asked in seminary to play guitar at a Friday night gathering. I was told that in doing so that I would be making an offering to the “community”. I didn’t have a clue what that meant. I was at school to figure out the meaning of life and to discover what Jesus was on about. As the father of a newborn who didn’t sleep much, and a steakhouse waiter by night, I didn’t have time or energy for “community”. Okay, there is a serious dose of narcissism, born of survival, in this story, I admit. But this word “community” seemed to me to be a buzzword that didn’t actually mean much in practice.

As I look back on twenty-seven years of congregational ministry, it still doesn’t mean much as far as I can see. We churchy people would like to talk about community—from the national level down to the congregational level—but you know what? It’s an ideal that I don’t see being realized. Or maybe a more generous way of saying this is that the bar for what constitutes community is pretty low. In fact, in my travels around North America and Australia, I would say that congregations are mostly a collection of individuals and/or families who have their real lives some place else—leaving their suburban silos for a church meeting or a Sunday morning service, and then returning to their separate lives. Church is a sideshow, a place where you get a little bit of “spirituality” and some “values” for the children.

Authentic community involves risk. It must cost you something...

READ ON...

Being Spiritual and Religious

Sermon by Chuck Queen


When Paul admonishes the church in 12:31, “Strive for (or seek or pursue) the greater gifts” he most certainly is not talking to individuals, but the church corporately, telling the church as a whole to give precedence to those gifts that edify and strengthen community. This is why Paul favors the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues. He argues that while the gift of tongues primarily edifies the person who expresses the gift, the gift of prophecy edifies the whole community.

Authentic spirituality is rooted and grounded in God’s grace, expressed in community life through gratitude. The gifts given to the church are given by divine grace and the community responds in thanksgiving. I have said many times that I don’t believe a spiritual life is possible without some experience and expression of gratitude. Paul typically begins his letters with thanksgiving. He opens this letter to the Corinthians by saying, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace that has been given you in Christ Jesus” (1:4). In Jesus Christ we have tapped into an endless reservoir of grace that cannot but overflow into expressions of gratitude.

Paul also says, “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (2:14). Paul is not saying that God withholds these gifts, rather, the unspiritual do not recognize and acknowledge these gifts that come from God. And while Paul is not eliminating personal gifts, his clear focus is on the gifts that God gives to the faith community. We learn in church – in our worshiping, praying, studying, and serving together – how to be a grateful people. I would agree with Paul that one critical aspect of authentic spirituality is the gratitude we experience and express as a result of God’s abundant generosity and grace.

READ ON...

Book Review: Living the Quaker Way

Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today

Philip Gulley

 

Review by John C. Robinson,
Ph.D., D.Min


In his highly readable Living the Quaker Way, Philip Gulley graciously welcomes the curious reader into the Quaker faith. His introductory chapter, "What is a Quaker?" is friendly, open, kind, unpretentious, and folksy. I read on expecting a primer on Quaker history, beliefs and practices and was not disappointed. But then I was startled by the change in tone. As he begins to work through the core values of the Quaker faith - Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality - Gulley becomes eloquently and passionately critical of modern American life, criticism that I entirely agree with. What makes it hard to read, however, is that I found myself "guilty as charged" of so many of the usual and customary varieties of dishonesty, hypocrisy, selfishness, insensitivity, and denial. His words challenged me to examine how well my life reflects these universally important values. Then I realized: This is the Quaker life, this is the way Quakers think and believe and strive to act.

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Pilgrimage (Music Video)

Hope Medford


From the album Purify (2013) by Hope Medford
of Medicine for the People
http://www.hopemedford.com

Dancers: Nielle Arnold, Justyn O’Neill, Rachel Hite-Smaka

Choreographer, Neille Arnold, created this dance to expresses the journey and struggle of a woman seeking her voice, and finding her power through the drum. 

Hope has always been involved in the healing and creative arts, from visual arts and music, to sustainability education and community health.

VIEW HERE

Progressive Christianity Forum – An Exploratory Workshop

The Rev. Susan Flanders 


For several years, and especially in the few years since I retired, Bill and I have talked about our frustration with most conventional worship services. We find the traditional language depicts a God in whom we cannot believe, and we find the whole enterprise of worship to carry too much emphasis on propitiation, guilt, and a sort of abject deferral to some being to whom we are supposed to owe praise and subservience. We have attended services in other traditions, read widely about variant understandings and experiences of God, but we’ve found little out there in books or practice that looks at worship in radically new ways.

We are searching for a way to practice something we might call worship that is genuine to our own experience and intuition as well as our thinking about God. We are interested in finding others who share these concerns and who might want to explore new ways of being together in worship. We are not wanting to entice people away from their current religious affiliations (if any), and we do not want to limit our exploration to the Christian tradition. But there may be a kind of home gathering on a regular basis for a fairly small group that could experiment with worship and develop some forms of language, music and ritual that would be meaningful to the group and perhaps to other worship communities.

READ ON...
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"The idea of a created community risks being synthetic and introverted.  If the whole of life is inherently sacred, we are constantly in community waiting to be affirmed.  The words of Mahatma Gandhi are endlessly challenging:  if we don’t find God in the first person we meet, it’s a waste of time looking any further."

~David Stevenson
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Know You Are Not Alone

Ian Lawton, SoulSeeds.com


Author Ann Lamott tweeted recently:

My experience with being a human is that we are all in the same boat- so ruined, so loved, so not in control of so much. Flailing; adored.

I love this, and I love Ann’s honest approach. It resonates deeply. So does her story about finding an inner city San Francisco church. She initially went because it was near the Flea Market she liked to visit on a Sunday. This was before she was well known. She was pregnant and preparing to be a single mom. The small community of 30 or so, mainly black, mostly poor, women embraced her immediately. They sidled up next to her and slipped her dollar bills, 10s and 20s, and some of them gave her baggies full of dimes. As Ann said, it all happened surreptitiously, as if they were dealing cocaine.

READ ON...
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Community
Weekly Liturgy

Polly Moore


Once something we took for granted, created in our towns or schools or churches, community is becoming increasingly precious.  Social media give us new forms of community but without the in-person element.  My computer has yet to give me a hug when I need one!  As the old African saying goes, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  With whom are you going far?

READ ON...

“Where There is Compassion and Love, there is God”

by The Rev. Carol Barriger


READ

“What is our Ultimate Concern?”

by Andrew Pratt


READ

"Table Prayer for a Progressive Christian Community"

by Rev. Kathryn Hawkerself


READ
Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Christian Church
Did Jesus Found the Church?

Ed Taylor


If the majority of Americans believe in God, why have they lost their faith in the church? One reason is that mainline churches have tended to look backwards – living or dying on their history and traditions – rather than building the church of the future. The challenge for older churches is to understand that, although it is important to honor the past, it is not who we were but who or what the church needs to become. If churches have not changed much in the last sixty years, their membership and attendance will likely continue to dwindle. For those mainline churches who have awakened and embraced post-modernism, they most likely have more vibrate ministries. Many of the newer non-denominational churches did not have to reinterpret their setting in culture because they were born in our contemporary culture. Or the churches that had the leadership to constantly think about and implement the vision and mission of the church year by year will stay strong.

READ ON...
Social and Spiritual Capital

Jim Burklo


I have witnessed the remarkable power of religious communities to bring social capital to bear on behalf of their members. Some congregations are particularly good at bringing low-income, isolated people into a milieu in which they benefit tremendously from contact with fellow congregants who have the connections they need to get ahead. It is as if they’ve stepped into an updraft as they enter the door of the church or temple or mosque, and find themselves swept up toward job contacts, vital information about services and resources, and good role models to follow toward creating better lives.

READ ON...
Celebrate Our Life Together

Jann Aldredge-Clanton


Celebrate our life together, giving birth in many ways;

Father-Mother Love is with us, leading to a better day.

Equal partners ‘round the table, family groups of every kind

show us how to nurture kindness, new creation’s joy to find.

 

Mother Christ is calling forward, longing for a peaceful day,

teaching us to free the captives, showing us the healing way.

We will open doors of welcome, bringing Good News unto all,

joining hands to work as prophets, breaking down oppression’s wall.

 

Sister-Brother Spirit gives us guidance for community,

helping us to grow together, finding all we’re meant to be.

Varied gifts, received and valued, join to bring new life to birth,

streams of beauty, peace, and justice flowing freely through the earth.

(suggested tunes: HYMN TO JOY, HYFRYDOL, BEECHER)

This hymn is published in Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice (Eakin Press, 2011). Used with permission.
Holy is Our Life. More Songs of the Cosmic Spirit
Sheet Music for Faith Communities

Emily Kierstead


There are 26 songs in this collection and the language is inspired by Progressive Christian writers such as John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, and Miriam Therese Winter.

Many people and faith or sacred communities are searching for fresh ways of singing our stories, and for new liturgies which can be the crucible of meaningful and worshipful acts. The poet, John O’Donohue says “The voice is the sound of human consciousness being breathed out into the spaces.” As we grow in consciousness, we need a language to express our images, and to carry our joy.

READ ON...


 
Start a Local Group


Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Local Group


Be able to say in a sentence or two why you want to form the group.

For example, do you want to deepen your understanding of the progressive approach to Christianity, be able to articulate a progressive viewpoint in conversations with others, create a supporting community, enhance your ability to strive for peace and justice in the world, some combination of these, or do you have some other objective?  Get clear about what you want to be about.

READ ON...


 
Where there is compassion there is community.... Community shifts and there are gifts offered in that shift. But if you find God within all you meet, you will never be alone. Blessings on your journey.
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