Sorting Out Life – Start To A Dialogue

By Rosemary and Karen*                                                       

*We’ve decided to insert the writer’s true first name.

Karen, a friend for decades, has suggested that she and I talk regularly via e-mail, to look together at some of our big questions about this time of life (much as we all do in  A Bigger Circle, but one to one).  We are now Seniors in the mirror, in the eyes of the world, in our physical beings, in the narrowing of the time frame and energy for getting things done.  Specifically, we want a true and timely relationship with the Divine but are struggling with the shape of that.  She reads the blog and was thinking that sharing this dialogue might provide an interesting flow for readers.  I agree it’s worth trying!  So this is the first, and I hope there will be others, maybe once a month or so.  Comments, as ever, are welcome. 

Letters, No.1  About Church

Hi Rosemary,

Another Sunday arrived with me getting up and planning to go to church…..okay.  But I didn’t go. “Why is it?”, I ask myself.  I have been repeating this experience for over a year now.  I have dearly loved the church experience as I know you have.

Disillusioned, disappointed, disconnected – these all apply and yet not at the same time.  Is it Churchianity  or Christianity, as Richard Rohr asks so beautifully in the book The Naked Now.  The church is just folks like you and me trying to love God, their neighbours and themselves.  Above all it is a place to worship and give thanks, something we both dearly love to do.  So why the wall?

Is it sinful (using the dreaded word) on my part, egocentric, self serving? Should I just bite the bullet and get out there and do my duty? Somehow I can’t make myself. Perhaps it has to do with age.  I relish the quiet time to pray, meditate and be alone with The One that I love. I feel a deep need for the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit to nourish my soul and I need a lot of time to  pray for all those dear people that God has given me to love and hold in my heart.

What do you think?

Love you dearly sister

Karen

Dear Karen,

Just got an idea here.  Your work (and mine, before retirement) involves daily intense interaction with a variety of people – staff, and mothers, fathers, children who are newly engaging with Canadian life.   All discover that you are a source of comfort, encouragement, information.  You are able to be useful.  But that requires making a real connection with each person, to discern the real need and determine what assistance you can give.  Major energy output!  Major giving of self!  And you’re not even an extroverted person – you need to be alone to gather energy (you don’t draw it from others who are all around you). 

I think it’s the social aspect of Church that makes it so difficult to pull yourself together and just go.  We both love being part of a community of people who love God.  But it’s that very community that you can’t contribute to right now – nor receive its ministry to you.

Needing to be alone with God, if you’re open to God’s comfort and are in communion with the many people you love through thinking of them and praying for them – sounds like Church to me.

I think I’m both in the same spot as you (still in retreat from being with numbers of people) but am also somewhat withdrawn from God the Father.  I’ve become more clear about how little my earthly father was able to love me – apart from periodic sentimental moments – particularly since getting to understand more about the limits that addictions place on the heart.  And while I believe that living in the past is a waste of time, I also know that I have to grieve my discovered sorrows to get past them.  Christ is a friend and a teacher.  I think Christ is divine.  But I can’t grasp the loving father, nor the Church fathers, and probably the latter in particular.  Somewhat to my surprise, that child abuse and the hierarchy’s failure to deal directly with it have rattled my willingness to submit to Church authority.   (Hardly an original reaction).

Well, I’ve said enough!  Over to you, old friend

Rosemary

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Sorting Out Life – Start To A Dialogue

  1. Ok, hold onto your hats and batten down the hatches. I am going to give you my view.
    I never go to church if I can avoid it. I made myself that promise after being raised in a particularly hypocritical and abusive family, and after being dragged kicking and screaming to weekly church services and ‘holy days of obligation’.
    I’m like Pop Larkin (Darling Buds of May circa 1991 UK) He said the best place to thank God for gifts given was out in the forest. His idea of a good sermon was the sound of the birds and animals. To which I say AMEN by the power of 10. In fact the only time I feel bad about not going to church (officially that is) is when I run into one of our lovely but occasionally guilt tripping pastors.
    Well thats it really.

  2. For the past few months, I’ve been worshipping with the L’Arche community in Toronto. It’s such a small, modest service. I like its humility, and the friendly kindness of the people there.

    A couple of weeks ago, the homily was on Matthew 25 – Jesus’ famous parable about the sheep and the goats. The priest asked us to consider not only what Jesus mentioned – you fed me, you clothed me, you visited me in prison – but also what is NOT mentioned. Jesus did not say, “you went to church, you celebrated mass, you remembered the holy days.”

    I guess my feeling is that church-going is not a duty, and certainly not at the core of faith. I think church is there to help us know God and live out our faith. And if it doesn’t help, then why go, or feel that we ought to?

  3. Julie MacLean

    This was such an encouragement to me… I feel terribly guilty that I don’t have the energy to do a lot more than I do but I never considered how demanding it is being a community leader-it’s rare to hear anyone acknowledge that(besides Claire Barcik!). This letter rang true in my heart and gave me comfort and took away some guilt. I too miss church sometimes because it feels like an extension of work and I need time away from the physical building I work in. I don’t separate out church at all from the rest of my life so I don’t feel any regret skipping church. When I have energy I love to go especially for the purpose of worship and teaching.

  4. Elizabeth Sherk

    I think Karen & Rosmary’s letters to each other, opened up to “The Bigger Circle Blog” for us to read will be a boon to all our soul searching–
    Psalm 139:23″ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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