Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pentecostal Musings

Tonight I had the honor of preaching an ordination service for an independant Pentecostal Church. It was quite a lovely experience.

I serve a church that identifies as "progressive," but of course, ours is as diverse a church as any. We have people whose thinking differs only slightly from the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and we have people who grew up in small, rural, evangelical congregations and who still find some of the "old time religion" appealing. We also have people who are scarcely religious at all except for their appreciation of the community that religion helps to form, and we have "New Thought" folks...positive thinkers who believe any idea is a seed that properly nurtured will take root and one day bear fruit. Some of us even fit into more than one category! So, "progressive" doesn't mean that we are any one thing, only that one is likely to hear a great variety of things in our church and is free to contribute his or her own view to the on-going faith discussion.

Still, for all our diversity, I am by most yardsticks a liberal. I'm a universalist (believing that no one is eternally damned, least of all for the religious opinions that they may hold). Critical thinking is important to my belief system, though so is a generous spirit. I love the bible but it is not the only source of inspiritation for me. I am a follower of Jesus but not because I believe that gets me closer to heaven or that failing to follow Jesus would land me in eternal peril. The ancient creeds are not especially relevant to me personally and I believe that people of religious traditions other than mine (and those who are not religious at all) have sacred value equal to my own (at least).

Quantum theory, process philosophy, transpersonal psychology, performance studies, social sciences, and lived experience are all as likely to inform my faith as scripture and religious tradition are. So, though I am a Christian, my room in the house of God is clearly on the left side of the structure.

And yet, for all my progressive theology, I still enjoy sharing worship with people who see things differenlty but who are as committed to their faith as I am to mine. So tonight, worshiping with my Pentecostal friends, I had a wonderful time. I am delighted that I was able to participate in the ordination ceremony and even preach for the service. It was a reminder of how really we are all one.

We may not understand everything the same way and we may not express what we do understand using the same vocabularies, but really, most of us are just decent people trying to be even better, wanting to improve the world a bit if we can, and hoping to learn some things along the way. That seems so clear to me tonight. I hope others catch on to the "we're all in this together" revelation. When that happens, peace and justice and equality may finally be a universal reality. Let's keep hoping.

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