Each fall for 15 years, up to 100 people gathered every Wednesday night at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, to explore the meaning of the Sacred Journey. Led by the Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey, the participants in the class listened and talked about their own journey and the journey of others. The class affirmed the individual nature of each journey and each person's need to explore the questions that can shape their path. The people who journeyed together each fall learned about prayer, community, death and resurrection. They heard questions and reflections from others, and through them came to a better understanding of their own spiritual growth.
We have included an overview of the Journey material here in hopes that some of the ideas may help you on your own Spiritual path. The questions are meant for you to ask yourself and those traveling with you. Use those that are meaningful to you as guideposts, pointing down a road you may not yet have explored.
The church as the community of the forgiven
What is your spiritual background?
What do you most value from your spiritual / church background?
If you share your response with others, you will find that everyone's journey has been different. Yet it is in the sharing of our experiences that we start the process of becoming a community...a community of the forgiven.
Our experience with the church usually begins with someone caring enough to invite us into the community...a friend, a family member, an associate at work. Some might call this 'evangelism,' while others would view this as simply expressing Christian love. D. T. Niles, a Methodist missionary in India, once said, "Evangelism is one beggar telling another where bread can be found." We never know what impact we'll have when we share our spiritual food, one with another. When asked, "Why are you a Christian?" Phillips Brooks, a noted theologian, responded, "probably because of my aunt Geneva."
In Acts 2:41-47, we see Peter preaching at Pentecost, telling the story of his own faith journey. The 'community' of the early church grew as the apostles shared their experiences, spent time together, broke bread together and praised God. The early believers were 'doing church' as the people of God...participating first-hand in the preaching, fellowship, worship, and evangelism in a close-knit community that is sometimes lacking in today's more organized churches.
What word or phrase comes to mind when you hear the word church? Is it a place, a feeling, or something else? In reflecting on these questions, try to remain open. Discuss your experiences with others and listen to theirs. A church can be as close as family. Particularly for those who may be separated from their loved ones, the church can be a place to celebrate good times and cry during life's difficult times, a place where others will look to you for fellowship and support. Church can offer guidance on your spiritual path and the company of fellow travelers.