The average tenure of a faith leader in a Christian community is less than five years. One reason may be that after that length of time, conversations become harder as relationships grow deeper. The longer I have been a priest, the more basic the work becomes.Textbooks answers have been exhausted and a seminary education has run its course. Now I’m spending more time exploring fundamental concerns of what it means to be fully human and live faithfully.
For instance, a recurring conversation centers around the mystery of connection and belonging. I hear people wrestling with questions like: with more communication tools available than ever before, why do we feel so disconnected from each other? How do we build community in a world where we eat in our cars more than in our homes? Why are we spending more time interacting with friends and family on social media than in person? How can we support one another besides liking a post or donating money?
Underneath all of these important questions, I hear a deep longing for real relationships. A desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, as we truly are. So many factors can get in the way: FOMO (fear of missing out) can spread people thin and leave us exhausted; economic realities can keep us burning the candle at both ends; a culture that values busy-ness and rewards productivity makes it easy to over-commit. The irony is that many pursuits emerge from our desire to connect and belong, yet their practice often leaves us unsatisfied.
To say that my work as a priest is becoming more basic, I mean that I am spending more time reminding people, myself included, that God created us to be human beings, not human doings. That God made us in love, and for love. That our deepest longings to know and be known, to love and be loved, is what it means to be human. We need to be reminded of that simple basic truth again and again. And we need a place to practice.
Goodness knows a faith community can be a place where FOMO, economic realities and a culture of busy-ness can run unchecked. But at their best, faith communities exist to proclaim that God created human beings in love and for love. Practicing real relationships can be hard, messy work, but so worth it. Building a place of connection and belonging takes time.
If you haven’t visited a faith community in a while, and you find yourself longing for a place of true belonging, consider this an invitation. Broomfield has over fifty active faith communities that span multiple traditions. There is an ancient Indian fable of blind men and an elephant: each touches a part of the animal so their experience is different, yet all of them together appreciate the magnitude of the whole. So it is with human experiences of God. No one can ever grasp the whole, but each tradition touches some sense of the divine mystery.