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What does faith mean to you?

Ric Matthews announcing the $31 million home for the homeless at mural site.

As humans, we are a magnificent complexity made up of many dimensions of energy. One of these dimensions has been called many names: Creator, the Great Mystery, the spirits, the sacred, all that is, God. Every culture and every person has her own name and description for this huge, all-embracing dimension.

We are living in challenging times on the planet as Linda Solomon’s recent article, “Nashville under water”, illustrates. There is a great temptation to give in to despair and fear. Is faith something that counters that temptation?  Does faith sustain you? I invite a pondering on this topic: ”What does faith mean to YOU?” Please share your thoughts in the comment spot below this article.

Paint your faith

After the dedication of the “Paint Your Faith” mural project on April 28, I interviewed Ric Matthews of First United Church in the DTES about what faith meant to him.

He said there is an emerging new definition of what “church” is as a radical statement that goes back to the origins of the church.

The early church of the Bible did not describe people gathered in buildings or engaged in a predetermined ritual or liturgy like we know of now as Sunday church service. Rather, in early times, people gathered in homes to support each other and to participate in healing themselves and society as a whole. It was a vibrant, living community that shared talents, resources, and possessions.

It was also more inclusive of a diversity of practices, beliefs and faith traditions. There was a constant conversation on how to accommodate everyone and how to compromise rather than a laying down of rules that everyone had to fit into. The centrality of Jesus was important but the rest was about including rather than excluding people.

As time went on, there was a narrower and narrower definition of what religion meant so that the encounter with the sacred became conversion and proclamation with an overemphasis on worship.  Belief in the sacred became complete allegiance to a narrow, literal interpretation of the Bible. Healing and growth were narrowed to Christian education and becoming a better disciple of this narrow way of life.

Ric said that originally early church was characterized by five features:

1. It was a place of encounter with the sacred within us and beyond us… and for Christians that meant God.

2. It was a place of real community belonging where sharing went deeper than nice friendships as an experience of the sacred. It was about deep fellowship and living the mutuality of interconnected interdependence. Desmond Tutu calls it “Ubuntu” which Ric explained means “I am only fully human when others are fully human. I am validated in the context of my interdependence with others”.

Wikipedia's entry on Desmond Tutu recounts his explanation of Ubuntu: “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas [we are actually connected and what we do affects the whole world]. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

3. It was a place of learning, growth and healing, freeing the full potential of the individual and the collective to living fully into who we are capable of being.

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