The heat of the summer was continuing to up the ante yesterday as members of The Episcopal Church in Parker County began arriving for the launch team meeting. The invitation to sit indoors with each other was welcomed as the temperature outside approached 100 F. In Texas, the heat of the summer is always a valid excuse for not doing something outside, and yesterday, it made for a perfect reason for us to be gathered together as we continue to build community one stitch at a time.
During our time together, we sat to consider some rather deep questions. As we divided into two small groups, we considered questions like, “When you hear the phrase ‘Love your neighbor,’ what does it mean to you?” and “What does it mean to you to be made in God’s image?” and “What do you love most about your life?” Each question was a question that invited us to think about our experience, our walk on this earth. Each question also invited us to consider the action of God in our lives.
In the Anglican tradition, reason plays a rather large role in defining who we are as faithful disciples worshiping Father, Son, and Spirit. To be a church of reason does not simply mean that we use our reason to make decisions in our lives. We acknowledge that almost all people do that almost all the time. The author and theologian Padraig O’Tuama wrote something similar to this in his book In the Shelter. (An incredible journey of narrative, theology, and poetry.) To have the ability to reason is to be human. We, as a species, tend to do what we believe is reasonable at the time. It does not always mean that our actions are just or that they are blessed by God’s presence; it does mean that we are using our God-given giftedness as a species to make decisions – good, bad, and ugly – in the business of getting on with our daily lives.
We can go about defining reason in any number of ways, but it seems that best way to understand reason is through experience. As creatures, we create ways of thinking that are specific to our experiences, shared and personal. The experience of our lives informs how we come to different conclusions and guides us in taking the next step. The experience of each person’s life informs us, guides us, and invites us. The experience that I have in life may not be exactly like any other person’s, but I can share my experience with others. I can look back over the arch of my life to take note of how God has been active in my life, and I can take the incredibly risky step of sharing my life experiences with others. In opening up to others by sharing my life experience, by sharing when and where I have felt God’s presence, I enter into a state of vulnerability with others.
When I take the time to name the moments in my own life when I have experienced God’s active presence in my life, I am placing myself in a vulnerable place, and I am learning how to look for God’s presence. In the act of naming these moments in my own life, I am sharing my experience of God, and I am learning how to listen for the moments when God has been active in another’s life. I begin to learn how to listen for those moments in the stories that others share with me, and I begin to be influenced not only by my own experience but also by the experiences of those that are in community with me. I begin to take on a posture of receptivity that is honed through the continued practice of listening for the movement of the Spirit in my life and in the life of my neighbors.
To be a church of reason is to be a church that looks for these moments in our shared lives of faith. It is to be a church that is willing to listen to the stories of those outside the church as we discern where God is moving in the context around us. It is to be a church that is learning how to help others name for themselves the moments that God has been present in their own lives. To be a church of reason is to be a church of experience, of openness, and of receptivity. Welcome to the Church as an institution of reason.