Well, I’ve been down this week with a mild flu.  And I’ve done what I’m supposed to do — which is stay home and not expose others.  One of the prices is that I missed Diana Butler Bass coming to Trinity Cathedral (which was very big on my agenda).  About all I can do is read about it.  And share.  The following is Dean Baker’s blog account of being there:

DSC_2531Last Thursday, Diana Butler Bass spoke at Trinity Cathedral.   She met first with the clergy of the diocese, and then had a public talk that evening.  She was remarkable.  Her presentation was interesting and fun.  Then she transitioned into preaching.  By the end I was totally jazzed about the future of the church.

With the clergy she spoke about the decline of Christian churches.  Not just mainline Christian churches, but all churches — Baptists and Roman Catholics included.   Several years ago the common wisdom was that mainline churches (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans) were declining but the evangelical churches were growing.  So mainline churches tried copying aspects of evangelical churches: their music, worship styles, buildings, etc.    Well now it turns out that was not a good strategy.  All denominations are declining rapidly.

This is not because people are less spiritually hungry.  It is because people choose their spiritual path differently than before.  We are not longer wedded to a particular brand or institution.  There is a remarkable variety of choices available to us as we chart our spiritual paths.  And people are less tolerant of institutional churches that feel too rigid.

Diana, as well as others like Phyllis Tickle and Harvey Cox, see a new reformation happening.   A spiritual hunger is spreading across the world.  In this particular spiritual “bull market,”   people are less interested in “Belief about Jesus.”   They want an “Experience of Jesus.”

One of the things Diana pointed out was that while many Americans say they are “spiritual but not religious,” most want to be “spiritual and religious.”  People aren’t giving up on participating in a religion, they just want their religion and their values to be more in tune with each other.    And they want their religion to be “spiritual” — which means it connects them to God, gives them an experience of the transcendent.

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For me the thrust of Diana’s presentation was that there is a new Christianity that is trying to be born.  We are in the midst of a new reformation.  People are hungry for Jesus and spiritual practices that help connect them with God.  As she spoke, I became more convinced of the importance of the Episcopal church for this time.  We have not given up on beauty, ancient rituals and mystery.  We have an open and supple theology.   In a sense we just need to get out of our own ways so these hungry, searching people can meet Jesus.

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