Saturday, September 20, 2008

Connection Through Religion

"When liturgy works…something truly remarkable happens. We transcend our sense of being unconnected individuals. We are lifted out of our individual isolation and transformed into a single organism…" Rabbi Harold Kushner, Who Needs God

I've chanted with Nichiren Buddhists. I've sat in deep silence with Zen Buddhists (and Zen Christians). I've observed Tibetan Buddhist rituals. I've shared Sabbats with neo-pagans. I've worshiped in Jewish synagogues.

I've enjoyed exuberant Pentecostal worship, highly choreographed Anglican and Catholic masses, and quiet Protestant services. I have listened to beautiful string quartets, contemporary readings, scriptures of world religions, and intellectually stimulating sermons in Unitarian Universalist Churches/Fellowships/Societies.

I have observed silence with Quakers, sang prayers in the Taize tradition, and prayed for peace with Baha'i devotees. I have participated in guided meditations, folk songs and show tunes, and listened to lectures about the power of mind at New Thought churches and conferences.

I have been blessed by a Santero (a priest in the Santeria tradition). And I have experienced over 35 MCC worshiping communities (no two alike).

Additionally, I am a graduate of an ecumenical seminary where I studied and worshiped with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Eastern Orthodox.

Do you know what is amazing about these extremely varied religious experiences? I've encountered the Sacred in each of them! The ritual could be as simple as sitting in silence, as dynamic as uncontrolled shouting and dancing, or as mysterious as large portions of the service being offered in an ancient language (i.e., Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Latin). But in every case, I felt reverence and wonder and I felt connection to those with whom I shared the experience and even to the mystical Web of Existence to which we all belong.

In other words, regardless of what we called Ultimate Reality, and regardless of how we expressed our hopes, longings, and gratitude, that which is so often called "God" was always accessible; and sharing the experience with others was always personally enriching.

I'm religious not to appease a far away deity, and not to guarantee some privilege for my soul, but because sharing religion with others brings me hope, encouragement, challenge, and comfort. I've seen it transform people in positive ways, and I have certainly been blessed by the experience. Religion, at its best, reminds us of our unity with all life and with the sacredness that longs always to express in, through, and as us. I remain, unapologetically, religious. I invite others to explore the benefits that healthy religious experience offers.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

No comments: