My continuing education course in May, that was focused on how we create and manifest our dreams and desires in our lives, stretched me out of my comfort zone, asked to open myself to a very different viewpoint at times than I normally work through. I knew I would experience some of this stretching when I signed up for the course. Yet I was unprepared for how that stretching would feel inwardly, and for my “programmed” unconscious responses to this stretching.
As I have been reflecting upon this experience of stretching, I began to wonder how the disciples felt as they followed Jesus and listened to his teachings. There I was, given an exercise that I have done many times: reach out energetically to an object and become that object and feel what it is like to be that object, such as flowers, trees, birds, people. I learned this exercise through other contemplative spiritual retreats, classes and courses. This is how I connected to the flowers and animals I made essences of for High Desert Essences. So I went about doing what I knew. When I came back and shared I was told I did it wrong — become in this practice was not become like I understood it.
It was a long frustrating afternoon before I began to realize we were using the same words but speaking different languages. We were all speaking English. But I was speaking American and they were speaking British. I had to learn the new meaning to the words that I used freely in my spiritual and energetic work, so I could properly experience this vital exercise in the curriculum of creating.
When I was able to translate properly, I was able to find a point of reference to understand the levels and layers of meaning within this exercise/experience. I was able to understand the importance of this exercise as a vital part of the foundation of creating.
I wonder if this was the way it was for the disciples? Is this why it was so challenging for them to hear what Jesus was teaching? They were steeped in the Jewish tradition of that time. Jesus was asking them to transform that tradition. He was asking them to experience the ‘language’ of Judaism in a different way. When Jesus spoke, the disciples thought they were hearing him correctly because they were listening with the ears of one connected to the tradition. They were speaking British English. Jesus was speaking Australian or American. He was speaking from a different viewpoint asking his disciples to open their hearts to a new reformed/transformed understanding of Judaism.
As Progressive Christian, we are doing the same thing. We use the same language that traditional Christianity has always used, but with a different twist on it. And yet, we assume those listening understand and hear the new twist we have placed on it. And we many times take it a step further and use that as a litmus test for those coming into our communities of faith — similar to the Gospel of John. If you understand what we are saying, then you are welcome here. If you don’t get it, nope not part of us.
And it is not just language. We assume that people know how we worship. Our bulletins, many times, do not include everything a visitor needs to navigate and fully participate in our services. What do I mean? When I first arrived the songs that St Paul's sings every week (the songs everyone knows by heart) were only there with words: Be Still and Deep Peace. I did not know them. That first week felt uncomfortable as I stood in front as Pastor who could not participate in the service music. There were no page numbers for me to find the songs. I picked them up quickly, but began to notice visitors having similar experiences. Now, the page numbers are there for people to find the music if they want.
You may not have noticed that. We usually do not notice these things because we are so used to it, we assume everyone else knows it. Everyone knows our language. Everyone knows our culture. Everyone knows our ways.
But how welcoming is that?
It is our job to be as sure as we can be that we are offering our visitors, those new to our community, the information they need to fully participate. It is our job to be conscious and aware of when we may need to explain that we have changed the meaning of that commonly used word to this… It is our job to create a safe space where people can come and open themselves fully to the movement of Spirit.
So I invite you as you come to worship; as you come to adult education; as you come to social events; come with the mindset of a different perspective, a different world view. Notice from that point of view how it feels to participate.
What would it feel like to worship with us if you were
part of the 1%
a stalwart traditionalist
in a non-traditional relationship
to name a few. Be creative. Try these out. Share your findings. The more we consciously step into other viewpoints, other perspectives, the more welcoming we will truly become — the more open we will be — the more people will want to be present in this expression of Christ’s church on Earth.
Pastor Jocelyn Emerson weaves together her training as a Light and Energy worker, Reiki master, spiritual director, and Pastor with her life experience as a mystic and contemplative to offer a space of trust, safety, and honesty to support you on your life's journey.