So much of what passes for institutional spirituality is little more than distraction. For example, was there ever a committee in a parish that had anything to do with God? Sure the meetings begin, and sometimes end, with formulaic prayer. Sandwiched between those prayers is very often the most un-spiritual discussions, the most manipulative planning, nearly as much spin as a White House press conference, and little or no talk of our spiritual journey. One of the blessings of serving small parishes is that we don’t need those meetings. To be quite honest, I’m not sure if anyone needs those meetings. Looking back on the meetings that I have chaired in the name of faith communities, most of them we could have done away with and nobody would have noticed.
It’s not just committee meetings, though. It’s fundraisers, arguments about polity or doctrine, activities like movie night, arguments about which books to buy for the parish library or what to do if the new dictionary has “oral sex” in it – we have so laden what passes for religious life in this country with non-spiritual minutiae that we can barely squeeze in the hour or two we spend in worship each week. God knows we don’t have any time left for the most important things like visiting widows in their distress or teaching prayer.
I’m truly not being judgmental about all that. I used to schedule those meetings and eagerly attend and participate in them. The truth is that I’m changing and I no longer see things the way I used to. I now see that the great majority of it is just nonsense – intentionally and/or unintentionally constructed to keep us away from God by the power and control arm of institutional Christianity. We don’t need to get people involved in committees, we need to get them to fall in love with God – and there are very few things less romantic than a committee meeting!
Someone once said, “In the end, God.” I agree completely, but why wait until the end? What not right now? Jettison the nonsense, kindly but firmly refuse to engage in any more busy work or make work meetings and make time for God. After all, God doesn’t really care if the brass altar rail is so shiny you can see yourself in it or if the linens are bleached and starched. Do it every other week. Quit every committee you are on except one. Keep the one that comes closest to being important. Walk away from every argument. If someone tells you that you believe the wrong thing, just smile and say, “OK!” Turn off the TV at least four nights a week, and limit what you do watch to one hour each on the other three nights – there’s very little there worth anything.
I used to get embroiled in all sorts of discussions and meetings and thought they were very important. Now I have seen the light, and everything looks so much better. Why? The answer is simple – right now, God.