Posted in Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Academy, church

Authentic Freedom – BEING the New Model of What We Used to Call “Church”

While the Catholic Church reaffirms its ban on women’s ordination and Protestant Churches are musing on (or in denial over) the question of emerging church, Authentic Freedom Academy is about the business of BEING the new church. I hesitate to even use the word church, because in truth, Authentic Freedom Academy is about everything Church is not, or rather, everything Church would have the opportunity to be if it were to lay down its burden of fear and its resulting need to exercise power and control.

Authentic Freedom starts where Jesus left off with LOVE. Examining every reported teaching of Jesus, every reported example, and receiving these through the lens of love, Authentic Freedom is able to pierce through the veil created by fear and the orthodoxy that arose out of this fear, to uncover the depth of love and the call to Oneness put forth by Jesus.  From this place of love, the love that lays hidden within every single spiritual tradition can be discovered, honored and embraced.  There is not only one way to “God.”  Everything leads us back to our original nature as love when we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

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In this, Authentic Freedom has mined all the possible ways of connecting with, remembering and embodying this love – whether it be through Christian or Hebrew scripture, meditation, movement, knowledge of our energy anatomy, the teachings of the Buddha, the mystical poetry of Hafiz, Rumi and Rabiah, mantra, chant, Kirtan, ritual, gathering in community, shamanic journeys, interpretation of dreams, the wisdom of fairytales, or a glimpse into the terrific tools of Western and Eastern psychology including the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs.  All provide nourishment, insight and support in our journey toward love. We have found that this kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural approach is critical in an increasingly pluralistic, secular and intelligent world.

THIS is what Church had the opportunity to do if it had not embraced fear instead of the love that Jesus promised for those who followed his example. This is what Authentic Freedom has become over the course of its twenty-two year evolution – a new model of what we formerly called “church.”  Authentic Freedom does this through our:

If you are looking for a different experience of what you formerly experienced as Church, I encourage you to check out our offerings and find out what might speak to you. Peruse our website.  Check out our offerings.  And if you have additional questions, do not hesitate to email lauri@authenticfreedom.love.

P.S. If the old way of being Church appeals to you and you find comfort and support there, then yay!  All paths lead us to God/Love. If not, Authentic Freedom provides a place where you can explore another option.

 

 

 

Posted in church, Jesus

So Over the Church Thing!

How do we as Church minister to those for whom Church has become irrelevant, to those who are seeking after and calling for a change in the way we do Church?  Can we be content as Pope Benedict XVI once suggested in an audience who is small yet obedient?  As one who has had the pulse of those who are seeking after change (innovators) and those who have already left (recoverings), I propose that we MUST minister to the needs of this audience because as much as the Institutional Church might be tempted to judge and condemn, it is the innovators and recoverings who hold the keys to the future of Church. 

So Over the Church Thing!

Seeking after, listening to and tending to the needs of the innovators and recoverings is a challenging thing because in truth, most of them are SO OVER the whole Church thing.  To them, the Church has become irrelevant because in their eyes, the Church assumed that salvation was the number one priority of all believers. For innovators and recoverings, salvation is the last thing on their minds. Concerns about a heavenly reward take a back seat when earth itself feels like hell!  When one cries out with their simple need to be loved, or asks for help in finding peace, or seeks assistance in discerning the direction of their lives and are met with silence, sooner or later they stop asking and find other ways to get their needs met.

Heavenly Reward or Heaven on Earth?

The old ways of being Church, with its emphasis on salvation and building the kingdom of God simply doesn’t work for innovators and recoverings. Instead, the Church needs to meet them where they are at – seeking after the fulfillment of some basic human needs:

  • The need to be loved
  • The need to find inner peace
  • The need to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment

In tending to the basic needs of innovators and recoverings, it is helpful to understand where they are currently seeking after the fulfillment of these needs.  The needs that they were not getting fulfilled in Church are now being met in the secular world – in Mindfulness and Zen meditation groups, at the yoga studio or local gym, local coffee shop or music festival, in the voracious reading of spiritual, personal development and self-help books,  and in volunteering their time to the needs of the greater community.  Here they are finding tools for personal development, cultivating inner peace, finding community and serving others. This is what they are looking for and as Church, this is what we are called to offer to them – but again, in a way that differs dramatically from the way in which we have formerly been Church.

When Church is No Longer Relevant

In ministering to the needs of those for whom Church is no longer relevant, first we have to understand that they have been hurt – they left because they did not feel loved and accepted, and because their needs were not being heard, let alone met.  As such, doctrine and prostheletizing need to be set aside.    Then, we meet them where they are at – LITERALLY!  We show up to the yoga studio, hang out at satsangs and new age bookstores, schedule “office hours” at the local coffee shop, occasionally throw back a beer at the local music festival and give our time to Habitat for Humanity, Rotary and The Red Cross. And when we meet them where they are at, we approach them with one thing, and one thing only – unconditional love.  Meeting innovators and recoverings with unconditional love implies the following:

  • Treating them with unconditional positive regard
  • Listening intently to what they have to say (even if it challenges our closely held beliefs or ruffles our feathers)
  • Hold space for any grief that they may need to process from feeling hurt, disillusioned or betrayed by Church
  • Be open to understanding what their real needs might be so that we may tend to their needs
  • Be a vehicle of support through which they can find ways to get these needs met

When we meet innovators and recoverings in this way, we are doing exactly what Jesus asked us to do and while it looks nothing like how we have known Church to be, we are being Church in perhaps the most authentic way.  In fact, I seem to remember a certain carpenter from Nazareth who ministered in exactly the same way.

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Posted in church

Where Will the Future Church Meet? Not in Church – Guest Blog

Today’s blog comes to us from reader, John Backman (bio below).  John and I have had several conversations about Emerging Church and we seem to be of the same mind on this topic.  I appreciate the way John continues to remind me of the things of value in the traditional church and things not to be left behind as we allow space for the Church that is trying to be born!  John, thank you for keeping me grounded and humble!   

Where Will the Future Church Meet? Not in Church

My wife and I raise guinea pigs. That makes us part of an obscure hobby with maybe 1,000 other folks across the U.S. We meet at shows, often in barns, wearing jeans and sweats sprinkled with animal hair.

A hobby this small has its own dynamic, and it’s much like a family. We attract colorful eccentrics and needy people. We gossip, fight, and disagree about silly things. We may be “related,” but we are very different. We also rally around one another in times of crisis.

And in most cases, we have found a place where we can be fully ourselves. That makes our hobby a sort of living laboratory for how to see and embrace people as they are, warts and all.

In other words, without even thinking about it, we are living into Jesus’ vision of community.

According to some churches I have attended, it’s not supposed to be this way. The local church, they say, is supposed to be our family. We guinea pig folk may be practicing Christian community in a way, but not within a Christian community. Right idea, wrong place.

But maybe it’s not the wrong place. Maybe it’s a glimpse of where the Spirit wants to lead the church of the future.

For centuries, church was the center of the local community. Even into modern times, it was expected that Catholics attend Mass in their neighborhood parish. Some evangelicals quote the Letter to the Hebrews (“not neglecting to meet together,” Hebrews 10:25) to tout the church’s role in the center of the believer’s life. Yes, churches were called to outreach, but the weight of the spiritual life was in the sanctuary, and the community that worshiped there.

Times have changed. So many people have abandoned church that this model is fast becoming irrelevant to the wider world. Moreover, few churches meet the standard of community that I find in my motley group of guinea pig people. How can the Church continue to speak from a model that no longer works?

Maybe it shifts the model. Maybe the Church gives up its role as the center of the Christian life—and becomes a facilitator of the Christian life.

It might look like this: for Christians, the world becomes our living laboratory, the place where we spend most of our time, the place where we strive to live the ideals of Jesus. The Church, meanwhile, continues to share its treasure trove of ideas, practices, and values to facilitate our progress.

Actually, this sounds a lot like the Jesus of the gospels. He spent nearly all his time in the public square: on the streets, with tax collectors and other disreputables, in people’s homes, and in the courts of the Temple, healing and teaching. When he needed sustenance, he retreated to the hills for prayer, and then back he went into the crowds. Yes, he interacted with his fellow rabbis, but mostly to challenge them, not to fellowship with them.

This would be a massive shift. The Church would no longer be a nexus of power, but rather a facilitator of service. It would stand on the sidelines, the way a head coach does. The game happens on the field; the coach simply gives the players the necessary resources and guidance to play well. It is an important role, but not the central role.

With the Church’s facilitation, people could immerse themselves in the world more fully oriented (and better equipped) to love all, accept the outcast, be vulnerable, and commit to others in a way that does not end with the first falling out. People living like this could do a world of good. The treasures of the Church would be used in service to humanity. Christendom would inform individuals and cultures rather than trying to control them.

What would happen if the Church followed this call? No one can say for sure. But it would be a worthy venture indeed.

 

About the Author

Backman at PA show 2.2014John Backman, the author of Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart(SkyLight Paths Publishing), writes extensively on contemplative spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. As a regular contributor to Huffington Post Religion and an associate of an Episcopal monastery, he has written articles for numerous faith-based publications, both progressive and conservative.John currently serves on the board of directors for the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, and he has presented on dialogue-related topics at academic conferences and faith gatherings.

 

 

Posted in church, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus

New Church or Original Church?

In the conversation about Emergent Church, I often wonder if what is really happening is the Holy Spirit bringing us back to what TRULY matters.  Jesus came with a simple message:

Love God.

Love one another as I have loved you.

Historically, it only took man a few years to screw it up.  Jesus was also very clear about what his personal mission was:

Feed the hungry

Clothe the naked

Heal the sick

Bring sight to the blind

Set captives free

Emergent Church seems to be about returning to the simple mission and message of Jesus which ultimately boils down to

LOVE

For today’s reflection, I want to share with you the ONE prayer that helps me to remember our task as followers of Jesus.  You can listen to it HERE.

Posted in church, Jesus, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Emergent Church – What I’ve Seen and What I See Coming

Today’s blog continues the conversation about Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence. Today, I’m moving beyond Tickle’s observations to add some of my own.  Having had my ministry formation in the Catholic Church, being employed in the Catholic Church for ten years and now having worked in secular ministry for another ten, I have seen some interesting things about what is happening and what seems to be coming in the emergence of a new way of being church that is trying to break forth into the world.

Wisdom (or Sophia, Mother Wisdom)_

Where is the authority?

As Phyllis Tickle frequently reminds in her book, every past major transition in Western Christianity has been defined by the question and settled in the answer, “where is the authority?” This transition is no different.  I have had a deep sense of this for a very long time and my suspicions were confirmed and words were given to what I felt emerging in the writings of Joachim de Fiore.  A twelfth-century theologian, Joachim predicted a time in the history of the Church when people would no longer look toward the Institution as an intermediary between themselves and God, but would instead, seek to know God directly and would bypass the Institution and go directly to God for guidance, direction, comfort, learning and support.  He called this time, “The Age of the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that this is EXACTLY what is happening today and will ultimately become the ground upon which the new way of being Church will take root and grow and the answer to the question of authority.  Authority – in the church that is trying to be born, will be GOD.  What is interesting about this is that this is the EXACT answer that distinguished the first generations of Christians from just another sect within Judaism and by default, created a new way of being church:

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5: 29)

The causes of this trajectory toward authority resting in God instead of Church are as follows:

Searching Stage of Spiritual Development

Collectively, we are in the midst of the searching stage of spiritual development (See Fowler).  We are asking questions.  We are seeking knowledge.  We want to understand the whys and the hows and if things don’t add up, we challenge it.  This is a critical and important stage of spiritual development and needs to be supported and encouraged if the Church ever hopes to have educated and empowered members.  The problem is that the Institutions, by and large, resist this stage of spiritual development, and some even condemn it.  “Sit down.  Shut up.  Don’t ask questions.  Do what you are told.”  But more and more Christians are growing up and want more, which leads me to my next point.

Longing for God

I believe this trajectory of authority is arising first, out of our longing for God.  Church, as we have known it, has done a great job of telling us about God from the perspective of (mostly) white men who have been placed in positions of authority.  While some of what has been said about God is helpful, the generation in which we now live longs for more.  This longing, I believe, has been planted within us by God and through this longing, we want to KNOW God – directly, personally, and intimately.  In the Church that is trying to be born, direct experience will not only be supported, it will be encouraged and will eventually become the norm.

Uppity Lay People

The trajectory of authority toward God over Church is arising, secondly, out of an educated laity.  The time of the clergy being the most educated in town is over.  In Western society, the level of education of the laity (the peeps in the pew) is rising and often far surpassing that of their pastor.  Additionally, lay people are seeking ministry and theological education and formation resulting in some laity that is at least as educated on matters of theology, Church practice and spirituality, as their pastors, if not more so.  Furthermore, we are living in an age of reason and in the information era.  Rational knowledge is king and it is readily available literally at our fingertips.  And educated, knowledge-driven laity will no longer be satisfied with “because that’s the way it has always been done,” or “because that is what is written in Canon Law.”  And first and foremost, for an educated laity, things need to make sense.  If a member of the community has a gluten intolerance, isn’t it better to bend the rules about how communion bread is supposed to be made according to Canon Law, than deny them the Eucharist?  And if abstaining from meat on Fridays is supposed to instill humility and keep us mindful of the people in the world who are hungry, then how is a $20.00 a pound perch better than hamburger at $4.00 a pound?

If authority rests is God, then is what need have we of Church?

This is the question I have been asking myself just about every day. And I have to give reader, John Backman credit for the answer that most resonates with me:

“The Church can serve well as an informer and guide to that conscience to which we are giving primacy.”

John, I think you hit the nail on the head.  If authority rests in God, then the Church has the important and very valuable and necessary task of providing us with the Spiritual Formation (which differs from religious formation) that gives us the tools through which we can hear and listen for God and then discern the voice of God from that of our ego.  Visually, I see the Church has a mother eagle, carrying us to the realization of our greatest potential.  Additionally, I see the Church as shepherd, providing the space and the structure through which we can come together as community to DO the work Jesus sent us to do – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, set captives free.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

 

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Posted in church, grief, Surrender

Emergent Church – The Call for Compassion and Surrender

Today’s blog continues the discussion about Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence. In Tuesday’s blog, I spoke specifically about the role and challenge of the innovators/prophets who have been gifted with the vision and feeling of the new way of being Church that is trying to be born into our world, and who have been commissioned to carry and bring forth this vision.  Today, I want to offer a show of compassion for the traditionalists, or as Phyllis Tickle calls them, the “re-traditioners” who are frightened of and therefore resist to this change.

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Greater even than the fear of dying is the fear of change

The re-traditioners, as Phyllis Tickle calls them, are those who are happy, content and comfortable with the model of Church as it currently exists.  The re-traditioners are made up of people in the pew (because they are still going to church) and those in leadership – specifically deacons, brothers, priests, pastors, ministers, bishops, popes, and even some of the women religious. Often, re-traditioners are those who have benefitted from the current model of being Church and who might actually have something to lose should things change.  Some have simply never been called to question the current model of Church and would rather not rock the boat.  “Why fix what isn’t broke?” they might ask.  The problem is that the current model of Church is broke, and many, fearing what a change in the Church might mean for them, choose denial as a way of managing the grief that threatens to overwhelm them over the thought of change.  For you see, even greater than death, human beings fear change.

Holding out for more celibate priests

Here is a case in point.  I remember years ago, when I was asked to be our parish representative in local discussions on how to deal with the Catholic priest vocation crisis.  As a group, we were charged with the task of figuring out how to manage six Catholic parishes with only two priests, and eventually how to manage them with only one priest – as these were the priestly vocation projections for the next ten years.  As an innovator, the solution was obvious to me – close four parishes and eventually all but one and hire lay ministers to staff non-sacramental duties.  While participating in these meetings, I was flabbergasted by the power of denial as I listened to the response to our task by several of the parish representatives present, “We’re sure priestly vocations will turn around, and we won’t need to worry about closure.”  Instead of entering into a discussion about practical solutions based on the cold, hard facts of declining priestly vocations AND declining church attendance, they chose to bury their head in the sand.  My compassion understands that what was really at work here was not ignorance, but grief – these re-traditioners were afraid of the impending change that would dramatically alter the experience of Church through which they had found comfort, predictability and safety.  The world, as they had come to know it, was about to change – dramatically.

Confronting our fear of change

We are facing a similar experience today as we stand in the tension between the Church as it has been known and the new way of being Church that is trying to be born in our world.  The innovators can’t wait for the new Church to be born and the re-traditions are hanging on with all their might to what they have known.  What often happens in the face of this kind of tension is one side projecting their fear onto the other thereby creating enemies where enemies do not really exist. I know this has been done to me, and that I, in turn, have done this toward “the other.”  It doesn’t have to happen this way, however. In the face of this transition, we can turn it into a tug of war – each side battling for power as the Church and its people get torn to shreds (which I’ve seen happen WAY too many times) – or we can:

1) Acknowledge our fears

2) Do something about them

For the re-traditioners, this will be about naming and claiming their fear of change and communicating this fear to those around them, and then allowing themselves space to grieve this loss.  For the innovators, it is about naming our fear of not being heard and of things not changing quickly enough.  For both of us, it is about sitting around the table and being present to each other’s fears and holding each other in compassion and love while the Church changes before us.

We Are Not in Charge

Here then is the trickiest part of emerging Church – WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE!  It is GOD who is calling forth this change – not us.  And this is a difficult pill to swallow for re-traditioners AND innovators alike – because ultimately, as human beings, we all want to be in charge and in control.  Instead, we are ALL invited to get out of the way so that the Church God wants to be born can be brought forth into the world – not according to our personal agenda’s, but according to God’s will.  And in this, our prayer is the very same prayer that Jesus prayed in the face of his own death, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Posted in church, Jesus, Mystics, Raised Catholic

Emergent Church – Giving People What They Really Need

Yesterday’s blog began a discussion on Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s groundbreaking book The Great Emergence. After posting yesterday’s blog, I received an email from a friend bemoaning their frustration with all the time Church spends NOT doing the work they are called to do.  Today’s blog begs the question, “When is the Church going to start doing the work they are called to do and when are they going to give people what they really need?”

Bathroom Tile

Case in point – my friend shared a situation recently where they were in attendance at a church meeting, one which was supposed to be about serving the community.  Instead of spending the time surfacing the needs of the community and deciding how to respond to those needs, the 3 hours allotted were spent arguing over the color of bathroom tile.  This stirred my own ire over all the time the church in which I was raised wastes time shopping for precious metal dishware and gold brocade chasubles, in arguing and defending doctrine, policing the charitable actions of the women religious, and rewriting the liturgy so it “more closely adheres to the original Latin” (a clever ruse to cover the real intention which is to further separate ordained from non-ordained).  I can’t help but imagine that in the face of all of this Jesus is either weeping or shaking his head in wonder, “Really?  This is how you are implementing my simple command to love one another?”

Let Them Eat Cake

I sometimes think the Church is as disconnected from the needs of the people as Marie Antoinette when she famously responded to the hunger of the French people, “Let them eat cake.”  (for the record, Marie Antoinette didn’t really say this….but it is appropriate that it has been attributed to her).  If the Church is really here to continue the ministry of Jesus, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, set captives free, then this is what they should be doing.  And I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt that people who are hungry, imprisoned, sick, and naked, don’t give a damn about whether the communion bread is made with the canonically approved recipe or if the chalice is forged from 24 carat gold, or if the women religious are in support of using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS or to support family planning. No, I’m pretty sure they are more worried about putting food on the table and a roof over their head or finding a job to support their family then they are about many of the things Church spends time worrying about.  Yes, there are the necessary tasks of running a business, but come on folks….there are way more important things to be done to fulfill the call Jesus has given us.

What Do the People Need?

In asking the question about what people really need and to what the Church is invited to respond, we need go no further than the father of humanist psychology, Abraham Maslow.  I think his hierarchy of needs pretty much says it all:

hierarchy-of-needs

As Church, it is our job to ask how we are working to help support the fulfillment of the above needs for all the people we serve (and by the way, the people we serve is NOT limited to the 100 or so who show up for Sunday mass). How are we making sure people (all people) have the food, air, water, sleep, safety, employment, health they need to not only survive, but also thrive?  How are we providing an environment in which people feel welcome, where a sense of acceptance, love, interest and belonging is fostered?  How are we supporting people in making, fostering and maintaining healthy connections?  How are we supporting the needs of families?  How are we fostering unconditional, loving support and helping individuals grow in self-worth and self-esteem?  How are we supporting the healing of those who have grown up in environments (and churches) where loving regard was not modeled, where maybe abuse, neglect and deprivation defined their formation instead of loving acceptance?  And finally, as people are ascending up the hierarchy of needs and finding themselves satisfied in the lower level needs, how are we fostering their self-actualization?  How are we helping people to know who and whose they are, giving them tools for uncovering their own unique giftedness and supporting their discovering of meaning, purpose and fulfillment in their lives?

What Emergent Church Feels Like

And this exploration brings us back to the discussion of Emergent Church.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we don’t know what the new way of being Church will look like, but as innovators/prophets, we know what it feels like.  And to me, it feels a whole lot more like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs than the color of tile on the bathroom floor.