Reginald Bibby revealed in his recent book, that 54 per cent of Canadians who say they have “no religion” nevertheless acknowledge they have “spiritual needs.” The polls don’t indicate how they nurture those needs.
Being what may be called one of those “peculiar” people (in both the old and the more recent meaning of the word), I find the most dependable source of a nurturing spiritual experience is often to be found in a Sunday worship service.
That is not to say it’s guaranteed! And it’s not to say that is the only source of a personal spiritual experience. I experience a needed spiritual uplift when I hear of incidents that reveal the mystery of human goodness. Also surprisingly, I count it as a spiritual experience when hearing of individuals where life has treated them grossly unfairly. One is left to contemplate the humbling mystery of “why not me?”
Also writers who have a creative gift of words can give me a “religious” experience. It was said of Anne Michaels that she writes and reads “in order to hold another human being close.” Writers are a mutual gift to the human spirit!
But for me it’s still the Sunday worship service which is the most dependable and regular source of a spiritual experience. Peculiarly for me it’s not what some would assume to be the “religious” part of the worship--the readings, the music, the prayers and the message. It is true they do provide a setting for contemplation and a re-evaluation of one’s life. But my most personal spiritual experience during the worship service occurs when I see the variety of people coming forward for the sacrament of the meal—all of whom are experiencing their own personal life transitions known and unknown by me. They’re not part of my family in the narrow sense of the word, but we’re knit together by a special spiritual and human bond.
And there is one other source of a spiritual experience during the worship time that may be peculiar to me. Our sanctuary has a window, where during the service one can look out and see the sky, the clouds and the trees responding to the wind and to the seasons. It is significant that the Old Testament Hebrew word for wind is the same word as spirit—neither can be seen, but sometimes they can be felt or their effect can be seen. With the view from the window, even in the midst of communal worship, one can be alone with one’s thoughts.
Most of us have had a special, mountain-top spiritual experience. I find it equally special to have what is for me the gift of a weekly spiritual experience.
(I’m mindful that my quiet contemplation during the worship time is only possible because of many people working behind and within the scene—gifts of the unseen spirit.)
Gerald Mitchinson: former pilot, former teacher and now a retired Lutheran pastor going through a new transition—aging
You can read more articles from our multi-faith blog Spiritually Speaking HERE
*This article was first published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday Oct 19. 2013