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Religion Re-Imagined

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

My Dear One,

Something is missing and we all know it.

Some of us know it consciously, we see it is missing, we name it, we mourn that it is not there.

Some of us know it intuitively, we sense that something’s missing but putting words to it is much harder for us.

And some of us only know it is missing unconsciously, not in any recognizable way but the missing of it manifests in our lives all kinds of, often unhealthy, ways.

But something is clearly missing and, in one way or another, we all know it.

In the past century, we have seen more change than nearly all of human history combined. I know people who picked cotton in fields as children, lived in houses without plumbing or electricity, whose primary mode of transportation was foot or horseback, and attended school in a one room building where the teacher was also the pastor of the local church. Life as such had much more in common with people who were born 3,000 years before them than it does with people who are born today. It was a simple life, a dangerous life, a hard life, but there was no doubt also much beauty and goodness in it.

In their lifetime, however, they have seen the industrial revolution transform the way we work, the technology revolution transform the way we communicate, the medical revolution transform the way we treat illness, the scientific revolution transform the way we understand the universe and the social revolution transform our concept of family. In the course of 100 years, we went from share croppers to space travelers, from telegrams to instant video calls around the globe, from common disease as death sentence to the decoding of DNA, from a Newtonian world to quantum physics, and from puritanical pietism to gay marriage. There is much to celebrate in each one of these monumental revolutions and the many changes associated with them.

And still, something crucial is missing. And we all know it.

There is another revolution in the waiting and the world is desperately crying out for it. What we hope is the last throes of an old way of being has heard the rally cry of fear, protectionism, and isolationism, dug in its heals, and reasserted itself with shocking force and cruelty. This old way of being asserts that tribes must stick together for survival, that anything “other” is to be feared, that some countries/peoples/races are more treasured by God than others, and that some ways of seeing and believing are not only invalid pathways to the divine but inherently evil.

This way of being is in stark contrast to the way of the Christian faith:

"If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:1-5

In the face of all the fear, judgement of others, and ensuing hatred this old order contains, there is a revolution in the waiting. And wether or not it is manifested into reality depends on you and me.

Alongside all these other major shifts in the way we live and conceive of life, the religious revolution is yet to come. For we continue to gather, to believe, and to self-identify in ways that still bear striking resemblance to the tribal religions of thousands of years ago. Again, I will begin with saying, there is much beauty and goodness in this older way of life. As an Episcopal priest, I stand in awe each time I place the chasuble over my head prior to celebrating holy communion, remembering how it connects me to a young middle eastern boy named Samuel who wore a simple linen ephod as he served under the priest Eli in the temple millennia ago. As the veil is lifted off the elements on the altar, I am reminded of the curtain in the Temple and how my own faith tradition teaches that the simplest of things are among the holiest, that God can be present in a piece of bread or a drop of wine. The details may be different for you and for me, but our connections to the ancestors of our various faith traditions is something deep, and rich, and good.

But the way we organize ourselves around these deep truths is archaic and in desperate need of rethinking. We need religion that is re-imagined and revolutionized. We continue largely to gather only with those who think like us, who look like us, who increasingly are the same age and socioeconomic status as us, who adhere to our own narrow understandings of the world and the divine, and thereby cut ourselves off from the rich tapestry of humanity and all the gifts that our differences hold for one another. This division exists not only between religions but within each of them as well. I feel I have entirely more in common with an enlightened Buddhist monk or a loving Muslim mystic than I do with certain kinds of arrogant and intransigent Christians.

I seek to live with and learn from those who are different from me in practice and even in faith, but who are my sisters and brothers in spirit.

For 2019, I was chosen by Spiritual Directors International as one of this year’s cohort of “New Contemplatives.” One of the things this has allowed me to do a few times now is get on a monthly video conference with the ten other New Contemplatives and our coordinator and just begin to share something about who we are and our spiritual journeys. We are very diverse. We come from different places, different races, different ways of engaging our spirituality, and different ways of thinking about guiding others in their own spiritual journey and faith practices. However, there is, at least for me and I hope for them, a palpable sense of deep goodness, blessedness, and kinship in the time we spend together.

What does it say that I, a white, straight Christian man who lives in Texas and wears cowboy boots, feels more in tune with a reiki practitioner, an African-American womanist, a Filipino beekeeper, a Latina social worker, a spiritual geneticist, a New York shaman, the first blind, female rabbi, and a black, queer trans man than I do with many in my own faith tradition?

I think it means our understanding of effective forms of religious expression is outdated.

The religious revolution is yet to come. But when it comes (must we still wonder if it comes?), it will change our way of life as surely as any of the other revolutions we’ve witnessed over the last century. As we continue to identify the commonalities of our faith expressions and celebrate them while also acknowledging our difference and feeling blessed by those as well, we will form a new community and show others how to do the same.

This is, to a large degree, why following The Way exists. It is our attempt to create a place for people of various perspectives and traditions to come together (online now and also in person going forward). Our vision is to create a shared learning platform where people seeking deeper spirituality can come together under the commonality of The Way and the Four Essential Truths that all major faith traditions hold in common.

It is also why following The Way has a strong central component of exploring truth found not only in Christianity but in other major faith traditions as well. Over the coming year, I look forward to sharing some of these insights with you and how they have enriched my own faith journey. I know it will enrich your journey as well. (Note- The January online gathering of The Session will focus on this very topic! Now’s a great time to join us. See below for more information!)

I’m excited about all that is to come in 2019. I’m again thankful that you are with me on this journey. We have some very exciting places to go together over the next 12 months, very exciting! I can’t wait to share it with you.

Christ's peace,


Are you interested in really working on deepening the spirituality of your life this year?

This week is your last chance to get in on the beginning of following The Way’s 2019 monthly online gatherings called The Session.

These online classes meet in the evenings on the first Monday of every month. Each class will lead us in a learning time where I will walk you through The Way, the Four Essential Truths, what it means to love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, and how doing this leads to a balanced and integrated life. In the second half of each Session, we will experience a group spiritual direction practice that connects with the learning from that day and concludes with a closing prayer. Then I will send you on your way with resources to explore each of these concepts and fully integrate them into your life over the course of the coming month.

It is the culmination of years of personal exploration, research, living life according to this way and seeking the wisdom of others who do the same!

Additionally, I will be available to coach you in your work, either by email or in a more intentional way as your personal spiritual guide.

This 8-month class will be followed up by an exciting adventure that I will reveal a little later in the year. I think you will want to join me and follow along!

Interested? The Session class and support is available to everyone who is a member of the following The Way® community as a “Join the Journey” or “Journey +” subscriber. To sign up for either one of these levels, click here.

Join now! The first session is on Monday, January 7th at 9pm Central Time. You won’t want to miss it. Below is a glimpse at where we’re going this year:

The 2019 Sessions

January - Session One: The Way

Reflection and Discussion - The Way comes from a common search by humanity for meaning that transcends any one religion, culture, race, or historical era. Expressions of The Way can be found in all major faith traditions. It was the original name for Christianity, remains the name of a major eastern religion and philosophy, and represents a common truth held by all who search for God.

February - Session Two: The Four Essential Truths

Reflection and Discussion - A brief overview of Four Truths and their various expressions. There are four foundational components of the human experience and our fulfillment is found in orienting each of these four “pathways” towards love of God and our fellow human beings. We will trace the Four Truths through Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Native American spirituality, and others.

March - Session Three: Heart - Vocation

Reflection and Discussion - Loving God with all our Heart: living a life of service and meaning. The first of the Four Truths is that we are made to live out a “vocation” a calling to serve others and work to create a more just and peaceful world. How do we find our “calling” and find fulfillment in it? How do we know when we are called to do something new?

April - Session Four: Soul - Relationships

Reflection and Discussion - Loving God with all our Soul: living a life of connection and forgiveness. The second of the Four Truths is that we are made to live in loving relationship with God, with others, and with self. Understanding who we are leads to a greater sense of the presence of God in our lives and helps us engage with others in authentic, Christ-like ways. How do we unlock the potential for deeper connection and forgiveness in our lives?

May - Session Five: Mind - Worldview

Reflection and Discussion - Loving God with all our Mind: living a life of understanding and compassion. The third of the Four Truths is that we are made to live in a way that sees the world as God sees the world and chooses an enlightened worldview over the common types of worldviews our culture offers. How do we gauge our worldview’s orientation towards of-God or not-of-God? Where do we find the courage to live in the radically different worldview Jesus called “the kingdom of God”?

June - Session Six: Strength - Presence

Reflection and Discussion - Loving God with all our Strength: living a life of health and presence. The fourth of the Four Truths is that we are made to live as flesh and blood incarnations of the Christ, both individually and communally. The entryway into that way of being is through attention to the physical self and the practice of awareness and presence. How do we practice presence and attention to the body in a way that opens us to the spiritual?

July - Session Seven: Balance

Reflection and Discussion - The Way leads to a life of balance and centeredness. We live unbalanced lives often with no tool for evaluating where we are imbalanced and what we might do to regain balance.

August - Session Eight: Integration

Reflection and Discussion - The Way leads to a life of integration and wholeness.

September - December

An exciting adventure to be announced mid-year!

Join the Journey now to be a part of it all!

This Week’s Elder - Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle was founding editor of the Religion Department of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, the international journal of the book industry. A writer, poet, book publisher, and journalist, Tickle was also the author of nearly forty books including The Divine Hours series and The Great Emergence.

Following is a podcast episode that ties in with Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence, which talks about how the church goes through a reformation, or “great rummage sale,” every 500 years. The last reformation symbolically started on Oct. 31, 1517 when Martin Luther’s 95 Theses sparked the start of the protestant reformation. We are now in the middle of a new reformation which has been brewing for decades and symbolically started on Sept. 11, 2001. Out of both of these reformations, and those that came every 500 years before them, there is not only a new reformation of the church, but a wholesale reformation of society, industry, science, education and technology. Listen to be inspired by where this wise elder sees all of this leading as we live through the current reformation:

Suggested Reading:

The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

Description from Amazon: Rooted in the observation that massive transitions in the church happen about every 500 years, Phyllis Tickle shows readers that we live in such a time right now. She compares the Great Emergence to other "Greats" in the history of Christianity, including the Great Transformation (when God walked among us), the time of Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, and the Great Reformation. Combining history, a look at the causes of social upheaval, and current events, The Great Emergence shows readers what the Great Emergence in church and culture is, how it came to be, and where it is going. Anyone who is interested in the future of the church in America, no matter what their personal affiliation, will find this book a fascinating exploration.

Question of the Week:

What is something you hope the religious traditions hold on to as we go through this reformation? What would you like to see be left by the wayside? Let us know in the comments below.


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