“Post-theistic” doesn’t sound terrible

A phrase like that sounds like it walks the line between belief in higher power and scrapping the idea in favour of humanism, according to this article I found at The United Church Observer:

Post-theism has quietly emerged in individual United Church ministries across Canada that desire a sense of intellectual satisfaction and nurturing and inspiration in their spiritual lives, qualities they say the traditional format fails to offer. Post-theistic churches use the Bible sparingly, acknowledging its contents as myth — or don’t reference it at all. Many write their own music, use contemporary songs to convey their values or change the lyrics to familiar tunes. Prayers aren’t addressed to God, but to the community and its innate sacredness.

This approach has attracted people who haven’t found what they’re looking for in traditional sanctuaries, ministers say. But it’s turned away congregants who feel they can no longer access their faith without the traditional symbols and language.

The reverend of that church, Gretta Vosper, wrote a book a few years ago that might be worth looking for: With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important than What We Believe.

“In the United Church, we’re very strong about praying for guidance, praying for strength, praying for courage, and if you take that idea of an interventionist God . . . away, nothing has really changed,” she says. “You’re still asking for strength, except it’s not coming from some supernatural source. It comes from the community that you gather with.”

Vosper is leaving a lot of the post-theistic decisions for her church in the hands of her congregation these days and they’re making some surprising choices, from wanting to pull crosses down (albeit briefly) to rediscovering the solstice.

The congregation is also having more conversations about spirituality, Vosper says, which makes for a much more interactive service. It’s a change from back in 2001 when she discovered through her research that church people had difficulty articulating their beliefs.

Rev. Ken Gallinger, who leads the congregation at Lawrence Park Community Church in north Toronto, says people are coming to Sunday worship there because they feel free to explore deeper questions and discuss some of their conflicting feelings about what they’ve traditionally been taught. “We hear so much about why people are not in our churches these days — that people are busy and they’re going to hockey, etc. But underneath that is a more fundamental thing: they don’t believe it,” he says. “What we’re trying to create here is a safe place for people to talk about ‘How do we develop an authentic spirituality without a guy in the sky?’”

While I might disagree with calling it spirituality, I can get behind their ambition to retain some sense of unity and greater purpose. They’re curious, they’re challenging themselves to rethink their long-held beliefs, and hopefully they come through the experience with the realization that they can still be good and worthwhile people within their families and communities without needing to give a deity credit for any of it.

Gallinger often uses secular music during his sermons and I found this part to be pretty interesting:

following a Johnny Cash and June Carter song played as part of his sermon, Gallinger reminded people that the song’s storyline — a deceased loved one makes sandcastles in heaven while waiting for her dearest to arrive — is complete mythology.

“Of course I don’t believe that — that’s foolish and ridiculous,” he tells them. “We know too much about the world to not know that isn’t true.”

Is he saying that the whole idea of heaven is a myth, or is he just saying our assumptions of what it’s going to be like are false impressions, therefore nothing to put faith in?

Reading the rest of the article, it seems like the United Church as a whole doesn’t really know what to do with these breakaways. Should they be encouraged or ignored and left to fend for themselves? Speakers for UC won’t admit to either tactic, stating that keeping communication open between both styles of church is what’s important. Rev. Robert Dalgleish, the General Council’s executive director of the network for ministry development, sees

post-theistic congregations as just one among many emerging forms of ministry within the United Church, which include into-the-community ministries like the café ministry in Hamilton or the skate-park ministry in Perth, Ont. “We have been so insular that the vigorousness and provocativeness of conversations like this are healthy for us if they’re going to get us thinking out of the box,” he says.

So he doesn’t care where they go so long as they go United. Sounds like the same method Sam Walton used to justify having a store within 20 minutes of another. Maybe each store makes a little less money but all the money made still went to Sam and company so the point was moot. Here, it’s all the credit, I guess.

Well anyway, I have to say that if I did for some reason get the notion that I needed to head to a church service, a post-theistic thing is what I’d go looking for. It seems like it would be less obviously supporting a solely Christian mindset compared to other places I could go.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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