By D.E. Paulk
In this blog I would like to speak to several ideas. One, the silver lining of the pandemic. Two, creative ways to reimagine spirituality when social distancing is mandated. Three, I would like to offer a new perspective of Sabbath.
A Silver Lining In A Dark Moment – While the pandemic has caused chaos, there is a hidden, subtle, creative potential being presented to faith communities and people who care about spiritual life. I find a silver lining in this storm.
This is a space full of both fear and possibility. And, here it is. The spiritual well-being for believers and atheists alike is paramount during the pandemic. Spiritual communities have responded in diverse ways to the pandemic. When I speak of spiritual communities I include our agnostic and atheist brothers and sister as a spiritual community.
Being raised as a Christian, anyone who did not believe like us, or who did not believe in God, was labeled as an “unbeliever.” How broad this term is. If someone does not believe like us does this mean they do not believe? Non-religious does not necessarily mean non-believer. I find many who do not have a specific belief in the Divine to be very strong believers. They believe in love, humanity, community, cooperation, interconnectedness. From an interconnected consciousness, we can see the human family is desirous of peace and connection in crisis, regardless of belief. Many are exhausted in the midst of dealing with the challenges of the pandemic. Perhaps the ideologies that separate us might also be exhausted during this time of crisis?
A New Day Demands A New Way – As we find ourselves in a transitional space of liminality and uncertainty, the religious practices and rituals that enjoy concrete and absolute expression have begun to consider a more flexible approach. Religion tends to demand certainty. Spirituality is unafraid of entertaining questions and invites abstract thinking.
Spirituality celebrates the unending journey toward truth, awakening, and unfoldment. Religion seems to hold dogma and doctrine as some sort of final destination. Resistance to change, and resentment of the unfamiliar, liminal spaces of darkness can sentence us to a lifelong wilderness of transition. Spirituality implores a mindful awareness of the truth that nothing is born, or even incubated, in the light. And, in this surrender, the liminal spaces go as quickly as they come.
As my spiritual community has reimagined our rituals of gathering, worship and connection, we have uncovered new ways to worship. Sacred laughter, observing nature, stillness and mindfulness have all become new rituals that provide strength and connection. This may seem lude, but I have learned to live in and practice gratitude for daily mundane obligations. When I awake in the morning, I immediately need to relieve my bladder. As I do, I give thanks for my bladder, kidneys, and digestive system working properly. This silly moment of gratitude has become known in my community as the “Pee-Pee Prayer!” And, in this morning ritual that we all share as humans, we find gratitude, interconnection, sacred laughter and higher vibration. Wow!!! Reimagining connection with the Divine as nature, laughter and urination. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken…not even in the midst of a global pandemic. Worship does not have to be seen as monolithic. It is all worship. It is all good. It is all God.
To Fast Fasting – Growing up Christian, we honored the sabbath with church attendance. And, I mean all day church. I attended three Sunday morning services and then a Sunday evening service (not to mention Monday night youth group meeting, Tuesday morning prayer meeting, Wednesday night Bible study, Thursday choir rehearsal and Saturday discipleship meeting).
I even recall my mother not allowing me to run to the grocery store on a Sunday because it might be profaning the Sabbath. Presently, I sabbath or “cease” in new and diverse ways. I cease from seriousness and allow myself to fully embody joy. I cease from, or sabbath from, worry and from projecting my happiness into the future by fully embracing the present moment.
I sabbath from guilt and shame, knowing that I will continually encounter mistakes and missteps in my journey of learning to navigate my divine creative power in a way that brings more joy than pain. I also have ceased from fasting. I fast fasting! And, instead of not doing something I do something. I connect with God more deeply through reaching out to a hurting soul than by refusing food. Is my hunger pleasing to God more than my love for humanity?
D.E. Paulk is the Senior Pastor of Spirit and Truth Sanctuary in Atlanta, GA (a thriving multicultural, interfaith, LGBTQ affirming congregation). He is a Master of Theological Studies student at Candler School of Theology.