Is religion dying out? Some say it is – others say it should. Since I consider religion to be an innate human process, I doubt it will disappear, but there’s no question in my mind that its forms will continue to change – as has been true forever.
To understand why the Fellowship is so important to so many people and will continue to be so requires recognizing the unique characteristics of a liberal religious community. I remember some of my mentors describing this: we are like a school because we offer educational opportunities, we are like a hospital because we offer care and support for healing, we are like club because we offer social stimulation and connection, we are like a charity because we do charitable works (we call it justice work now.) But we are not merely any of these: not a school, or hospital or club or charity. We are a religious community. First and foremost we are a worshiping community; worship is at the heart of our congregational life.
I know – the terminology can be challenging. What do we mean by worship? It’s easy to get hung up there. What’s much more important than the word is the act, or acts of worship. Here’s a way to think about it: to join with others around a commitment to values in order to support one another in living up to those values. To not participate regularly in worship is to miss some very important things. For example, to not be present in a Sunday service is to not enter into the shared effort of support for others, especially for dealing with hard things. The courage it takes for many of us to name our fears and troubles is made possible, is called forth, by the compassionate listening presence of others. And to be present in that process is to be part of bringing forth truth and working to understand more of it. To be part of worship is to be part of considering life and living, together, including the parts that words cannot express.
The religious life is not merely an intellectual exercise, not limited to discussion of religious, theological or political ideas. The religious community is more than a club or a school or a shared project of justice-making. Religious life, and especially shared worship, are practices which turn us ever closer to living in right relations. Both depend on learning more about the truths of our own minds and thoughts, more about the truths of our relatedness to all others, more about the truths of how we are part of Life. To be part of this religious life is a choice, which is offered to us daily, weekly, and more. May we choose to be present, intentional and committed, that our lives may be blessings to each other.