Progressive, Done with Church, and Ready to Do their Inner Work

Progressive, Done with Church, and Ready to Do their Inner Work May 26, 2023

done with church what is contemplative spirituality
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While speaking on a podcast a few weeks ago, I was asked about who signs up for my workshops and offerings.

For context, I’ve been leading workshops on contemplative spirituality and shadow work for the past decade. It began in 2013 when I couldn’t stand being in a traditional church anymore, so I formed a community in Seattle that meditated and had dinner together every week. When that ended three years later, my workshops moved to Tacoma and began to emphasize contemplative activism, spiritual and contemplative practices, and eventually, informed by my time with Richard Rohr and the Living School for Action and Contemplation, courses on somatic shadow work and my book Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life.

Throughout all of that, I’ve noticed some clear trends in the type of folks who show up in the spaces I hold.


Those who are done or done-ish with traditional religious institutions.

I refer to these folks as those who are “nine toes in” or “nine toes out” of traditional church life.

Some in this group have left the church entirely, but still hold a connection to Christian language. For example, they may have no interest in surviving through another church service or trying to “reform” their old church community anymore, but words like “incarnation” and “justice” still have deep resonance. They read books by Richard Rohr, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Rob Bell, and read the poetry of Mary Oliver. They have a deep desire for spirituality, but they’re done with giving the church another shot at being part of it.

On the other hand, there is another population in this group – those who are “nine toes in.” Based on my experience with those who engage with me here on Patheos, this might be you.

Those who are “nine toes in” come to my workshops out of curiosity. They still go to church on Sundays, but there is an internal ache within them for a spiritual depth that is not being touched upon. The folks in this group might love their community, but they feel like spiritual practices, especially contemplative ones, aren’t taken seriously within their local parish.

They have one toe wandering beyond the walls of the church, searching for a space of depth to sink into.


Folks who want practical and accessible tools for their inner work.

This one is exactly as it sounds.

A huge number of the people who come to my workshops are looking for accessible, practical tools for diving deeper into their inner life and spirituality. They resonate with tools like the Enneagram, shadow work, somatic/body work, and contemplative prayer. And yet – none of these things are being offered in their local church setting.

They’re tired of getting weekly lectures without applicable tools for everyday life.


Progressives who desire to be part of change-work, but often acquiesce instead for the seduction of comfort.

It took me awhile to realize this, but it is certainly a common theme.

And coming from a progressive background, politically and religiously, I resonate a lot with this one. In fact, it’s part of the reason my workshops always aim to bridge the gap between contemplation and action in the large and small moments of the day-to-day. I’ve had a really hard time with this in my own life.

Many of the folks who come to my workshops are politically progressive and they deeply want justice in their communities. They want to be a part of the healing change-work needed in the world.

But they’re also afraid of what that will require of them. Perhaps even more than feeling afraid, they feel stuck. “What can I do?”

They have been seduced into seeing the world and their place within it through a lens of their own comforts. (Haven’t we all?) Which makes it almost impossible to be creative and see next steps in a world that feels like it’s on fire.

And so my workshops aim to offer the gentle support and guidance to make the first few steps and to go from disconnected to connected internally as well as within our communities. Because both have to happen in order for healing to be sustainable.

If you’re curious what this looks like or if any of these sentiments resonate with you, please check out my free email series 5 Days to Get Off Autopilot or shoot me an email so we can connect!

About Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang is an educator in the Pacific Northwest, an alumnus of Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation, and author of Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life. Along with writing regularly, he facilitates workshops helping people to navigate their inner lives and explore their sense of identity and spirituality. You can read more about the author here.
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