You’re invited to join a church that’s unlike any other. It doesn’t have a set of rituals, a holy book or even a physical address. It has no hierarchy either, because each congregation consists of only one member: You. I’m calling it the Church of Everyday Life.
I got the idea from the late businessman and philosopher John Templeton who has guided much of my thinking (as has Thomas Moore) on what it means to be a spiritual but not religious person And what Templeton proposes is that we all become “ministers” in our own church.
While we often think of a minister as a church official, Templeton believes that all of the good things we do in this life constitutes our own personal ministry. He points out that for most of us, life is not made up of “great sacrifices or high-level duties” but of small, everyday gestures.
When we habitually add smiles, kindness and love to our daily activities and encounters, we not only bring a small measure of comfort and joy to others, we bring it to ourselves as well. For Templeton this is a more than a theory, it’s a way of living he encourages us incorporate into our lives. Here’s his rousing “call-to-love”:
How wide is the path of love you tread? Can it encompass all those around you? Pour out love in thought, in word, and in action. Try to think love, speak love, feel love, and become immersed in it, until all else in your life and world is absorbed and melted into giving love.
My late-friend John Gray has been awarded a posthumous position of Bishop in the Church of Everyday Life. I wrote about him several months ago, and his beliefs share many similarities to what Templeton is saying. John was often puzzled by the cruelty of mankind and while he would rant about the injustices he saw, he believed in doing his part to make the world a better place. His words bear repeating here:
I believe that God resides in my own being and manifests itself in my acts of kindness, my simple sincerity, trying to respect each person I meet just as they are—prying smiles, tenderness and love out of them; softening their hatreds, their prejudices, their frustrations of the moment. How I do this is simple. I smile, shake their hands and cheer them up! It is my contribution to humanity and it costs nothing. I try to live each day, in spite of the ugliness I see in our world, with friendship and kindness to all I encounter.
Should you decide to become a Minister in the Church of Everyday Life know this: It’s all about giving, while expecting nothing in return. Which is actually a win-win situation. The author and philosopher Tom Morris points out the delightful conundrum in the giving/receiving dynamic in the passage below—which are words worth contemplating each day.
We are here to attempt to give more to this life than we take from it, a task that if undertaken properly, is impossible. The more we give, the more we get. But that’s the point.