I recently concluded my time at an event called the ECW Fall Gathering here in the state of Arkansas roughly three weeks ago. It is a mini-retreat where Episcopal women all get together in fellowship, basically to hang out, drink a lot of wine, get to know one another, and just sort of relax a bit as well as try to discuss & come up with new ways to get people more involved in our individual churches. The church that was hosting it was named after St. Francis, and I couldn’t help but feel once again that connection with the so-named saint. The location of the church just helped deepen that feeling of union with nature and the saint, as the structure is nestled in a woodsy area that is currently ablaze with the colors of fall. I was rather pleased to find that this church had a ministry focused on raising money for their local animal shelter, something which I found appropriate given who the church is named for. I was walking around a room inside their parish hall which contained poster boards advertising various ministries, including a trip to England & Scotland that had been taken, and I suddenly felt an urge to cry. I don’t know where it came from, whether it was a some sort of spiritual sensation which overcame me or a momentary hormonal imbalance, but I paid attention to it. I looked over at another board set up advertising the ministry directed towards the animal shelter and I felt an even stronger urge to cry. I just felt so moved and heartbroken at the plight of those animals and at the effort people were taking to help them in any way that they could. I did not break into tears and the feeling eventually passed, but I still felt drawn to that ministry for the animals.
After my time spent at the Fall Gathering I have slightly warmed more to Christianity. However, there is no way I would ever completely exclude Pagan elements from my lifestyle & spiritual practice. I still believe that all religious paths are valid, which I discovered this past week (relating to my personal beliefs anyway) is Henotheism, in that I personally worship one God but am not excluding the possibility that others exist or that the belief/worship of other deities is somehow inferior or wrong. I still believe in magic and that it is not only real, but very useful, positive, and can help one grow spiritually & personally. Magic & Witchcraft are not evil. A social stigma & taboo is not inherently evil, and there are several figures in the Bible (if you are going that route) who use magic outside of God’s command and/or permission who are neither punished nor condemned.
I already feel called & a connection to St. Francis, who while not a deity, is a prominent Christian figure. I have no problem with Jesus, but I do have a slight hang-up with the level of emphasis that is placed on him. My issue with that will more than likely be a topic for another blog post in the near future. I refuse to believe in any kind of bodily resurrection of Jesus, but can concede to him being a prolific and compassionate teacher & mystic. I view the story of the resurrection and ascension more or less as a metaphor. Was he really the Son of God? I can’t say, which is why I can’t say that I believe that he is. For that to be confirmed for me I would have to have some kind of personal experience affirming that. He could come & tell me directly in a dream or meditation or there could be a series of events and circumstances that call my attention which have a sensation of more than coincidence, much like the events with St. Francis (which was a combination of all of the above). Until that time I still do not feel confident in asserting with absolute certainty Jesus’ divine lineage. And I most certainly do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible nor any literal interpretation of it. I still maintain that the vast majority of its contents are pure allegory and only a small minority could be proven as actual history.
In summation, I suppose I could define myself best as “spiritually eclectic” combining a little of this and a little of that, intelligently and with respect to the individual belief systems. I believe in God and recognize a single divine being, which I usually call simply God or The Divine, and I do not perceive this being as having any gender. I believe that God is inherently loving and forgiving and that It does not care how you address or approach It or if you even recognize It at all. Why should God be offended if you view him differently than your neighbor? You’re all worshiping that same Divine energy, that same Divine presence. I have conflicted feelings as to how personal this God gets with us because if God were truly all powerful and omnipresent than I would have some serious questions regarding certain evils that have transpired. Yet, I also feel there is something Divine which cares about us on a personal level. Are they angels? A separate personal God that has been assigned to “watch over” us separate from the greater Divine? I’m not sure about that one. I believe in an afterlife, a singular place for which all are destined, and that true hell and suffering is the distance you have from God and from your deceased loved ones. I don’t believe in eternal torment and suffering because it doesn’t serve ANY greater purpose, and that notion only seems to satisfy humanity’s own sense of self-righteousness and inherent blood lust. Eternal anything seems a bit much, but I imagine one’s sense of time differs when one is no longer restricted to this material plane. I believe that one’s soul lives on after death and that it can become trapped here on earth (which would certainly feel like hell to me). As the Nicene Creed goes, I believe in both “the seen and the unseen” world. I believe in a few things that others find crazy, but then again a lot of people find the belief in ANYTHING other than what they can see & touch as the stuff of the stupid and insane. What others think about my personal beliefs doesn’t really bother me. Whatever I feel is sincerely right & true in my heart and what makes logical sense to me is therefore right, to me. My beliefs will differ than yours and that’s okay. Spirituality is a very personal thing and I don’t think there’s really any right or wrong answers…
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