Saturday, 9 January 2016

We come together in Love

O come together in truth;
O come together in peace;
O come together in joy and sharing,
Come together in joy and sharing,
Come together in knowing and caring;
Come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.

Beautiful words by Dorothy Grover, from a much loved hymn.

They describe why I became a part of spiritual community. They are not the reason why I went from a secular singular person to one who sought out spiritual community, but they are why I stayed. I came to try and understand, to make sense of the sudden and profound changes that had occurred in my life some 11 years ago, changes that have continued on and on and on. I have not found the answers I was seeking by the way, in fact if anything there are many more questions today than there was then. What community has given me, amongst so many others is a space to explore those and many other questions with like hearted people. In such an environment I have learnt to not only ask and listen to the questions, but to truly live them. I came seeking answers, but it is not why I stayed. I stayed because I found something far more than I was consciously looking for. I stayed because I found community, I found true belonging. I found love. I found my heart's desire.

We come together in search
Of new beginnings for all,
Where understanding and trust surround us –
Gone the hate and fear that bound us;
Come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.

Loving community is something that I believe everyone needs, in order to truly thrive and grow and become all that they can be.

Starhawk catches this need near perfectly when she writes:

“Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.”

John O’Donohue describes beautifully what it means to come together in love. He wrote ““When we come together in compassion and generosity, the hidden belonging begins to come alive between us…”

Describing community as a constellation. And inspired, no doubt, by the spirit of Paul’s letter to Romans, he further stated “Each one of us is a different light in the emerging collective brightness. A constellation of light, of course, has greater power of illumination than any single light would have on its own. We need to come together. When people come together because they care and are motivated by the ideals of compassion and creativity, true belonging emerges, communities cease to be inward looking and enrich our world.”

Madeleine L’Engle in her piece from “Walking on Water”, was also no doubt inspired by the same spirit when she wrote the following.

“We all feed the lake. That is what is important. It is a corporate act. During my time in the theatre I knew what it was to be part of such an enlarging of the human potential, and though I was never more than a bit part player or an understudy, I knew the truth of Stanislavsky’s words: “There are no small roles. There are only small players.” And I had the joy of being an instrument in the great orchestra of a play, learning from the play (how much Chechov taught me during the run of Cherry Orchard), from the older actors and actresses. I was part of the Body. That’s what it’s all about.”

This is spiritual community, this is what it means to come together in love. Something which many observers say is going the way of the Dodo!

Many decry the state that we are in. they say that people are becoming increasingly isolated and selfish and that there is no community concern, no togetherness. Yet in recent weeks I have seen beautiful examples of people coming together in love and helping one another in difficult times. The devastating floods that have hit the north of England, parts of Wales and Scotland in and around the Christmas and New Year period has caused untold damage to individual lives and communities. And what has been the response, well I have witnessed so many people coming together in caring and sharing. Helping one another out in times of need.

One of my sisters lives on a Narrow Boat at Horbury Bridge in West Yorkshire, just off the River Calder. Over Christmas the water levels hit the highest point ever recorded and they and several other boats were in peril of rising above the canal bank and finding themselves on the tow path. Many of the people who they were moored with were away over the Christmas period. Those left behind were in peril but came together to support one another and keep all the boats safe. It was a scary time, but they came through it. I have seen and heard of many other similar examples up and down the land.

I had another personal example too, last week. My car broke down in stationary traffic on the motorway. It had overheated and I had to pull over on to the hard shoulder as there was steam coming out of the bonnet. I opened the bonnet and saw the water coolent tank looking like it was about to explode. I reacted foolishly, thinking I ought to loosen it and steam burst out and burnt my hand and face. I called to be rescued and the help came. As I stood there waiting in pain so many people called out pulled over and offered me water to help sooth my wounds. Just another example of people coming together in love, sharing and caring.

It is easy to get cynical about human nature and the selfishness that can grip us and yet there is a love there when it is allowed to flower and burst out on us all.

Having said all that our modern way of living does not encourage community as it once did. Last Sunday I was without a car. I could not get it into the garage to be repaired due to closures etc during the Christmas and New Year period. This meant that I had to travel by taxi between the congregations I serve. I got into a fascinating conversation with the taxi driver who began to tell me that he believed that his business would not be around for many more years.This was because Artificial Intelligence was taking over and that already in San Francisco there were taxi’s without drivers and that people would be increasingly turning to them. He also suggested that it would be the same in fast food outlets etc and all sorts of other industry. He suggested that increasingly there will be less and less human contact as all kinds of impersonal interaction would take over. He talked about the isolated lives that we live and lead these days and that young people don’t need to go out today and can live artificial as well as self-created and self-sustaining lives.

The image he painted was bleak. I did think to myself there was something of the Luddite in his fears, but he did make an interesting point. I pointed out to him, as I was paying for the ride, that one thing that would be lost would the fascinating human interactions that we had just shared in if things turned out that way.

The conversation awakened my homiletic consciousness and fed into some of the other thoughts I’ve already discussed in this blog. I thanked him for helping me write my sermon for this week. At which point we both laughed and smiled and got on with our business

I find it hard to believe that we humans will become what the taxi driver expressed. What I have witnessed in recent weeks has shown me that this spirit of coming together in love is powerful within us. Community may not be as obvious as it once was, but people will always come together in love, that spirit cannot die. There will always be community. As Howard Thurman once said “The moving finger of God in human history points ever in the same direction. There must be community.” There will always be community, the spirit will never let it die.

This is why, despite current trends, I believe that there will always be spiritual community. Privatised spirituality is not enough, for it does not truly bring the spirit alive. It loses power on its own it cannot thrive and grow. There is a need to come together in love; there is a need for community; there is a need for spiritual community.

Now I didn’t know this when I began searching for answers all those years ago. It’s not why I walked through the doors of Cross Street Chapel almost exactly 11 years ago to the day. I didn’t find what I was looking for, far from it. No, I found far more than I could have even begun to dream of. I found a place where I could come together in love…I hope and pray that it is something that everyone finds on their spiritual journeying.

Let’s continue to come together in truth; let’s continue to come together in peace; let’s continue to come together in joy and sharing; let’s continue to come together in knowing and caring; let’s continue to come together, o come together, o come together in love…

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