I recently spent the weekend in Peterborough, at Trinity United Church’s annual educational event. The guest speaker this year was Diana Butler Bass. She is the author of many books, the latest being, “Grounded – Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution”.
I have heard Diana speak on four separate occasions and am more and more impressed each time. She truly grows in her understanding and shares openly her insights. The topic this particular weekend spanned her last book (Grounded) and anticipated a new one called “Gratitude” due out in April. She spoke of how the church of old was defined by “vertical understandings” – heaven above, earth, and hell below – and how with our new awareness of the web of the universe this type of understanding no longer works. She played with how this challenges everything from our doctrines down to our architecture (think church spires). It was a great talk.
One quick comment she made that had a particular impact upon me was this; she said that the derivation of the word ‘doctrine’ is “healthy teaching”. I didn’t know that. She then pointed out that much of our doctrine has not fulfilled that purpose. For a long time we have used doctrine as a club to keep people in line, to argue that there are right answers to questions of faith and wrong answers. The right use of doctrine is to help people spiritually; good doctrine should lead to deepening faith. I like that.
The world of the church is changing fast. Diana had lots of charts and data showing the shifts in religious affiliation and spiritual understanding. Often we who have long been a part of the institutional church wring our hands in despair at such information but she presented it in a calming way. We are in the midst of massive changes but people still hunger for connection, for God and so however it evolves humanity’s spiritual journey will continue. I look forward to her book in the spring.