“Nones” were the subject this past weekend of a New York Times op-ed piece (Dec 10, 2011) by Eric Weiner, entitled “Americans: Undecided About God?” “Nones” refers to people with no religious affiliation. In this article Weiner has a challenge for church folk to seek a “new way of being religious…this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment. A religious operating system for the Nones among us. And for all of us.”
Steve Knight, a friend and Community Architect for TransFORM, a missional community formation network, wrote a great response to Weiner suggesting that those very things are already happening. Following some earnest online conversation, I was inspired to ask friends who self-identify as “Nones” or “SBNR (spiritual but not religious),” to please help me. I asked, “What kind of space, invitation, event, etc could I help create that would be interesting enough for you to engage/participate with folks from a faith community?” I heard some great suggestions for all kinds of community building, spirit nurturing, justice seeking ideas. What I didn’t hear was anyone offering to help make those things happen.
So, here is my challenge to all my neighbors who are SBNR or Nones wishing for community —
I can’t create what you need without you! Our whole congregation is incapable to building what you long for without your gifts and vision!
Now, it is true that not every person will fit every faith community. Some gatherings will have more porous boundaries than others. Some will have more core beliefs than others. If you can accept that other folks have core beliefs, regardless of whether you agree, then you and they might be a good fit.
For instance, the community I serve holds a core belief that the Holy One, Creator of all, is incarnate in the person of Jesus. You do not need to agree with this idea in order to participate here. Nearly every time we gather for worship, we say, “This is G-d’s house and all G-d’s people are welcome.” If it is ok with you that we hold these core beliefs, we might be a good fit. If not, we can still be good neighbors and friends. However, if you seek spiritual companions and think we might be the place — you are going to have to give us more than half a chance. Visiting once is not enough to know what we are about. We have off days, too!
If you earnestly seek a community where you are willing to be as vulnerable as you want us to be, if you want a space where we try to make it safe to ask any question and see it as part of a journey of faith, then help us build the trust necessary to make that happen! You are invited! You are encouraged!
Come teach us the songs that make your heart sing! Come take your turn praying prayers with words others might never have thought to use and listen to the sincere prayers of others whose words you might not prefer. Come offer to lead the movie night, the drum circle, the meditation group, or the service project. Come help cook for the community dinner, cleaning up after some kids, dare to love us and we will try to love you right back!
But we cannot be you who want us to be without you!
We cannot say, “We have no need of you.”
So, I invite, encourage, ask or dare you – show up, give it a try, help us change and grow, together.