Last night I had new friends to dinner. We ate a creamed, spiced carrot soup, a roasted vegetable salad and a French Cassoulet with hot sourdough bread and Irish butter. We ended with a fried tortilla with cinnamon-sugar, caramel ice cream and salted caramel sauce and sipping ginger liqueur. As the candles burned low over four hours we talked, and I remembered that this was why I left the monastery.
We discussed the church and our longings for what the “molting” will bring. We were wildly optimistic about the spiritual lives of people while grieving the loss of clergy power and perhaps even, over time, clergy incomes. I suppose the later will exacerbate the former. The clergy who came to the vocation with humility and have been able to maintain it will be just fine. The others will, quite understandably, freak out. What does one do when one no longer mediates God simply because one’s church has died of old age? If a tree falls in the forest…if a priest absolves an empty room…
We discussed a house church. It will be simple. We will gather in a home. We will fill a crock pot or two of good things and we will warm bread and pour wine. We will gather and face each other. We will tell each other what is going well and what is not going well. We will speak out loud our sins in order to get input…. “How do you deal with that in your life?” We will use small rituals to heal from trauma and to make transitions. We will read a book and discuss the chapters. We will remember what was said last week and follow up….”How is that going?” We will have our phone numbers in our phones and send texts from time to time about our failures and about our success. We will gather in a crisis. We will bring each other chicken soup when sick – and prayers. We will compare notes about the charities we know which ease human and planetary suffering and we will, individually, give to them.
It is morning now. The dishes are done and I am back in my chair on the porch doing my spiritual practice – sitting – some meditation – some mindfulness – some coffee – a blanket – these trees. They are no gothic structure. They are not stained glass. They are not altars. They present no authority to mediate God. Between Sundays they do not sit dark and silent. They bless, but I do not pay them to do so. We just hang out together. What if there were no confessions and no absolutions? What if we could sit in silence a bit for six days and then gather as friends? Would that be so bad?