; charset=UTF-8" /> ECUMENICAL AND INTERFAITH NEWS – January : Connecting Voices
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(Submitted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the Pacific Southwest Region, DOC, and the Southern California/Nevada Conference, UCC)

Transmitting Spiritual Riches to Region and Conference

     The global interconnections made possible by modern transportation and cyber-technology have created many new possibilities for the human race.  Maybe the greatest of these is access to the incredible spiritual wealth of humankind, enshrined in so many great and small religious traditions.  Each society, each culture is now confronted not only with its own religious tradition, but with others as well.  This is, on the one hand, threatening to any who are not secure in their own faith and practice.  On the other hand, those who feel within them the desire to grow closer to God are now able also to do this through visions received and practices developed beyond their own spiritual container.

     The reception of these insights and practices began in this country as early as the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson in the mid-19th century.  But it has accelerated vastly in the last half-century.  However, it sometimes seems that many of those most eager to learn spiritually are “New Age” adherents, or people with only the vaguest sense of faith in God, or even outright secular types: people who don’t go to church.  

     It is puzzling that there is not more interest in our churches in the current worldwide revival, in so many forms, of spiritual practice.  Could that be in part because in the American mainline Protestant churches, we have become so preoccupied with institutional survival, and so locked in to our existing forms of worship, our committee agendas, our programs—that we hve troublr seeing what is going on all around us?  Could part of it be also that we are still caught up in the “work ethic” bequeathed to us by our country’s Puritan founders, so that we believe unconsciously that true religion is always a matter of doing?  And so that we understand even worship and prayer, let alone community service, as our actions, our good deeds, instead of as engraced channels of receptivity for the divine?

     In the Christian tradition, the two sides of spiritual living have been called the active and the contemplative.  The scriptural basis for this distinction has often been taken to be the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10: 38-42.  Interpreters have wrestled for centuries with the meaning of Jesus’ saying that, of the two sisters, Mary had made the better choice.  Some of us in the DOC region and the UCC conference believe that, at the least, a spiritual imbalance has developed among us. We believe that we need, accordingly, to validate and restore the practice of contemplation and receptive prayer, in all its many forms, in the life of our people, and perhaps especially among our clergy and lay leaders.

     In today’s context of global interconnection, this means we can recover and enjoy not only Protestant practices of prayerful spontaneity, but also the silence of the Quakers and the Catholic monastics, and the liturgical and iconic depth of the Orthodox.  Then also, going beyond the explicitly Christian sphere, we can benefit from the profound meditative and breathing practices of Buddhism; the sense of many forms of the divine energy, both masculine and feminine, in Hinduism; the reverence for ritual and holy days in Judaism; the indigenous awareness of many spirit helpers in the natural world; the rigorous daily prayer discipline of the Muslims; and much more.

     Some of us believe strongly the Region and the Conference need to fscilitate structured, regular opportunities for our people to get together to learn and practice the many ways through which God has made it possible for us to be in touch with Him (and/or Her!).  There could be several  such circles operating in different areas, meeting perhaps once a month for this purpose, in different locations to equalize driving time.  This would not only enhance and enrich our spiritual enjoyment and daily following of Christ, but also equip us to teach others how to experience the sacred on new levels.  If anyone reading this might be interested in joining such a circle in 2013, please contact Jim Findlay (323-271-6422, sleight_of_time@yahoo.com) or Jeff Utter (626-794-1839, hefffer@earthlink.net.)

The National Manifestation of the Church: UCC and DOC 2013

     As the Body of Christ, the church always goes beyond our own conception of it.  In the nature of things, most of our church experience is on the local level.  But the local church could not exist without the larger body on which it depends for leadership, ideas, and a sense of how to connect God’s shalom to the whole of humanity.  Those who have attended the biennial national meeting of the Disciples—the General Assembly—or the United Church of Christ—the General Synod—invariably return with a new excitement and a new commitment to the life and work of the local church.

     UCC people in the Southern California/Nevada Conference have a priceless opportunity this summer to experience the first General Synod ever to be held in California: specifically, at the Long Beach Convention Center.   The Synod convenes on June 28.  The DOC General Assembly also meets this summer—in Tampa, Florida, in July.   But even given the track record of the Disciples in drawing more of their people to their national events, Florida is a distance away.  Long Beach is not.   We on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee hope to serve the end of DOC-UCC unity and mutual understanding by bringing as many Disciples people as possible to the Synod, even if for just a brief visit of a few hours.  The worship, music, preaching, booths and workshops will have an enormous amount to offer.  We guarantee that Disciples who want to get a better sense of the beating heart of their sister denomination, the UCC, will be able to do that by planning in a visit to the Synod, June 28 through July 2.  Get in touch with our committee by calling Jeff at 626-794-1839 if you are interested.

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