Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sacred is as sacred does

Over the years, a great deal has been written about "meaning", "depth", "impact", and "fulfillment", especially in terms of faith and one's religious experience. Traditionally, established institutions (church, synagogue, and other "affiliation-based" entities, which later hold sway as what we know as modern denominations) maintained somewhat of a monopoly regarding what these ideas meant, and when/how/why the functions that provide them were distributed.
In the last several years, there has been a breakdown of this establishment hegemony over "organized religious life." With the various innovative efforts on today's scene - from "non"-denominational and "post"-denominational congregations to the appearance of "emergent" and "store-front" opportunities, it is no wonder that the traditional churches and denominational movements have been working frantically to "transform" and "reinvent" themselves. Yet this is nothing new. Historically, religion and its apparatus have always evolved to remain relevant, which is the key.
For today's world, which is so interconnected through the ongoing communications revolution, it is crystal clear that "usual" forms of religious affiliation and activity are not singly sufficient (though I argue still necessary because of their potential to provide their range of worship, programming, education and social justice endeavors) to engage people in the most meaningful ways. The goal of religious involvement, remains true: to enhance people's lives through a sense of community that reflects their striving for the Divine. The human condition is one that seeks sacred community - whether within a customary setting (one of the usual "affiliation-based" entities), or (now more prevalent) beyond them. As has been demonstrated, a new generation of seekers is looking for community without congregation.
To me, a sacred community has certain key elements: it provides and fosters loving relationships, in which people feel powerfully and positively connected to one another; it offers experiences to mark our lives with sanctity (like Sabbath and holiday worship, transformative prayer and celebrating the stages of the life-cycle); and it promotes ongoing learning (religious and secular) as a prioritized value. Here's the lasting question for each of us: what are YOU looking for in terms of religious community?


  1. I think the quest for a sacred community is mutable and textured; the answer changes depending upon a thousand different things. Yes, as you say, it includes the search for connection, the sense of shared experience, the promotion of shared values. These are all integral.

    But it is also a search for God, a connection, specifically, to the holy. I don't think we can forget that. Let's face it--- all the elements you included can be found outside a religious context. There are social networks, learning communities--- all disconnected from religiosity.

    What is unique about searchcing for, and creating a "kehilla kedosha" is a concept of God. I believe we come together to find god, hear God's voice, feel God's presence--- through others. There is a completeness, wholeness in sacred community. It is where we learn to truly be "b'tzelem Elohim" (in the image of God): loving, compassionate, forgiving.

    The community becomes holy, not because it is attached to some denominational or religious entity, but because it recognizes the spark of the Divine in its members, and acts upon it.

  2. As a devoted member of TBE, I feel I have some spark of the Divine in me, therefore , I feel it is my duty to our congregation to do the best I can to help make it a welcoming community. My goal is to help people feel comfortable and welcome, and to hopefully, see that they have the opportinity to find their niche so they will have ownership in our "house of worship and learning".