…or, exploring faith with people who practise ‘alternative spiritualities’
I have already written about the first time the group which became Hug Cullompton met. What I haven’t written about is what happened the evening before.
I had been at the town’s intercessory prayer group. It was an ‘invitation only’ group, and as I was quite vociferous about my need to pray I was invited to become a member. During the meeting we had been reading Ephesians 5.6-11, which speaks about being ‘children of light’, committed to ‘tak[ing] no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expos[ing] them.’
At the end of the meeting, having heard me describe the spiritual support meeting I was attending the next day, the participants gathered round me and laid hands on me to pray that God would go with me into the darkness. It wasn’t until after I got home I realised they genuinely thought I was taking part in “the unfruitful works of darkness.’
I find it fascinating that, in many church traditions, there is a desire to understand and partner with people practising other faiths (known in the trade as Inter-Faith Dialogue), while those who engage in what are labelled ‘alternative spiritualities’ are treated with far less dignity and acceptance. Certainly I was brought up to believe they had no proper grounding other than a leaning towards the occult.
My experience has been entirely the opposite. The people I have encountered during this particular walk of faith have been gracious, generous and accepting of my beliefs in a way that many of my fellow Christians would never reciprocate. I have learned much about the basis for what they believe and do, some of which is centred in spiritualities more ancient than Judaism, and which predate the coming of Christ by at least 2,000 years.
I have learned how important it is to treat our bodies with respect, to listen to them, and to relate all that we think and feel to our ‘createdness’. I have learned about the close relationship between body, mind and spirit, and how it is connected to the past present and future in ways we do not understand, but which God does. I have watched radical healing take place before my eyes, and I have wondered how this can NOT be of God. I have read my Bible, trying to work out how all this might contravene what is written there, but have found no condemnation, only affirmation.
And in doing so I have found a stability in my own faith in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, orthodox as it is; and a renewed confidence in talking about Christ Jesus, who accompanies me in every aspect of my life – as saviour, friend and guide.
The three most important lessons I have learned in my years walking alongside the other members of hug Cullompton:
- that the expressions of love, grace and acceptance we see practised and recorded in scripture can sometimes be more evident in faith communities that wouldn’t describe themselves as ‘church’ than those that would.
- the importance of learning to value what I believe, and drawing a line between those beliefs and those with which I cannot adhere (both in Christian and alternative spiritual traditions). In doing so I can act with integrity and without fear, opening myself to learning more about how God works through relationships, both inside and outside the church.
- that God is good, faithful and just; and will reward those who walk the way of Christ, whether they adhere to traditional church doctrine or not.
For a deeper reflection on my time working with people who practise alternative spiritualities click here