MAY 2002

You don't necessarily leave your faith when you leave your church. Some folks do, perhaps because their faith is so tied up in their church that they don't know how to leave one without the other. I remember that being referred to as "throwing out the baby with the bath water."

I also remember pitying  them for not having a faith strong enough to withstand dissension, until I realized that everyone has to find his or her own way. Some of us recognize the church as a building or a space where people gather to strengthen their faiths; but even within that church we each have our own particular faiths.

People love to gather...just give us a good enough reason, as long as we can feel comfortable with the beliefs that make up our faiths. I never left church because I carry it with me. When I found myself not attending an organized church, I started one that is only as organized as those who attend, which around here means it includes a potluck brunch after every meeting. I love each of these people in various ways, and I enjoy our times and discussions together because I feel safe knowing that my ideas and opinions are considered just as valid as each of theirs. And I know lots of people who attend other churches; and they enjoy their experiences just as much as I do mine.

You are the church...and so am I; we carry it around with us and in us. If you don't believe this, just imagine what your church would be like if none of the people attended. A buddhist unitarian minister used to end his sermons with this:  "may god walk between you and harm and all the empty places you must go; in the evening of life you will be judged by love; may all beings be happy."

Don't go filling yourselves with guilt just because you find yourselves outside the "church" building. The truth is that church is inside you and each and every one of us--it's your faith, the one you've been working on since your parents introduced you to it as children. In fact, some people believe you've been working on your faith before you were even born. Other folks believe that theirs is the only faith that'll clear you a path to heaven. Their faith is exclusive, leaving many outside who have just as much right to inclusion; but I think they're in for a surprise later anyway. They judge by their own interpretations which they believe to be the Word of God. But remember that it is just their own interpretations, not God's. Every one of us has a right to the kingdom without having to jump through hoops which are created by our peers. Each of us has the right to feel comfortable with our faiths and each of us has the right and deserves to be happy. Bring your children up in happiness and you'll have church in your souls to carry with you everywhere you go.


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