I am so grateful for my family and how I was raised. I was encouraged to question and think for myself about all things, including religion. Though my Mom had me going to a liberal Protestant church until I was in 6th grade, after that there was no required Sunday attendance, thus I didn’t attend very often.
However, like many people today, I had a very personal and alive relationship with the Divine, which was free from a religious organization. By the time I was in college my exploration expanded into East Asian religions, Shamanism, and Carl Jung (as I was a psychology major, he was my bridge between the 2 worlds.) I loved all the exploring and conversations with friends about God, life and why we are here.
I was in my mid-twenties when I first discovered a New Thought church in Arcadia, CA. I found it amazing – its philosophy embraced the Oneness behind all religions – and knew this was a home. I didn’t, however, take on the church as an identity. It was simply a church with which I resonated and enjoyed attending Sunday services when it was convenient for me.
As time went on, I explored other New Thought churches, took classes and got more involved in the communities. It was 5 years before I became a member of the Centers for Spiritual Living – one of the branches under the New Thought umbrella. Membership was a requirement to be a licensed Practitioner of the CSL teaching, so I surrendered to the obligation.
I received a clear call to be a minister but wasn’t told which organization I was to serve in this role. After prayer, meditation, and exploration, I finally decided CSL made the most sense as it allowed me the freedom to continue my exploration of many paths, with its basic principles big enough to make room for it all. Though I highly valued Ernest Holmes, the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living, I didn’t identify myself with him or the organization. The call was from God, and not an organization.
The entire time I was in ministerial school I never thought I would be a pulpit/church minister. It wasn’t just that I was, at the time, highly introverted and shy, I also didn’t identify myself as a “church” person. Though I had been attending Sunday services over the years and liked them, I didn’t ever feel like it was “me.” While in school, I came up with many ideas of how I could serve God as a minister outside the church structure. Thus, it came as a major shock when I received from the Divine that I was to be a pulpit minister. I listened and became one, though it took years to embrace being a leader in a religious organization. I still see myself as a minister of God, not of CSL or any organization. Of course, the Divine includes CSL, but It certainly is not limited to it.
It’s an interesting thing, after all these years of learning to embrace being a member of an organization (well, I’m a work in progress,) to then hear of the mass numbers of people leaving organized religion today. Millennials, we are told, have very little interest in it and in a couple of decades or so, organized religions as we have known it will barely be in existence.
I find myself conflicted. Effortlessly I can align myself with the idea of no more religious organization, especially one that demands Sunday morning attendance. At the same time, as Spirit has very intentionally, and unrelentingly – despite all my protestations – led me to become more involved in spiritual communities, ones that do have weekly Sunday morning services, I have become increasingly grateful for this form of communal celebration in and as the Divine. Sundays have become a favorite day, a day when I gather with people who are on this same path of self-discovery and awakening, each in our unique way and remember the One source of us all. It’s a time when hearts soften, minds come alive and collectively we experience an infinite joy that can often elude us in the daily grind of day to day living.
I love my freedom and my freedom has brought me to be a leader in a religious organization. While the organization isn’t my identity, the structure it offers is a direct gift of unlimited Divine Love for which I am eternally grateful.