Many gates through which to enter

The church needs to offer people multiple environments to explore and express faith

Listening to the RobCast on Monday, I enjoyed hearing the insights of Rabbi Joel Nickerson from a Jewish community in Los Angeles called Temple Isaiah. After finishing the podcast, I went to their website and loved this introduction I found there:

Temple Isaiah is a kehilla kedoshah, a sacred community, with many gates through which to enter. We welcome you through the gate of Shabbat and Holidays. We welcome you through the gate of Torah and Lifelong Learning. We welcome you through the gate of Social Action. We welcome you through the gates of Volunteerism and Leadership Development. Come in, and make yourself at home.

The idea of ‘many gates through which to enter’ resonated strongly with me. It reminded me of one of the mantras we have at my own faith community here in Sheffield:

Mosaic exists to create multiple environments for people to explore and express faith.

There isn’t one right way for people to explore and express their faith. There isn’t one gate that will be the right gate for everyone into any spiritual community.

Church has often functioned with a one-size-fits-all approach. A weekly Sunday service is still the way of most churches and the expectation is that that one weekly service is what everyone will need. It’s the only gate; the only environment.

But the truth is that there are as many paths towards God as there are people on this planet. That doesn’t means there aren’t points of convergence, and it certainly doesn’t mean that our life journey is an individualistic pursuit. We need community. We can’t make alone.

Sadly, many churches have ended up pushing people away. Their rigid structures and one gate offerings have left people feeling that church isn’t a place for them to explore and express faith. This is tragic.

There is so much wisdom contained within the Church. There is thousands of years of mystical wisdom locked up in its sacred Book and ancient traditions. It would be a tragedy for this to be wasted.

That is why my hope is for more and more communities of faith to rise up who will create many gates for people to enter through and multiple environments for people to explore and express faith.

Important as they can be, we need more than Sunday services. We need more than Bible studies. We need more than meetings.

What we need is countless multifaceted, living, breathing communities that bring together both contemplation and action. Faith and works. Prayer and deeds. Churches need to be places of empowerment, education, transformation, community, prayer, and activism. We need to cultivate all manner of different ways in which we embody these values that will find resonance for different types of people.

As someone who has been part of a church experimenting with trying to build this type of community for ten years, I can tell you it isn’t easy. But the world doesn’t need more cookie cutter churches. It’s needs organic, life-giving communities of faith that are raw and messy and real.

And for all of us, if we are to become the fully alive humans we were designed to be, we will need to do it together. Whether it’s formally as part of an official faith community, or informally with people around us who share our desire to explore and express faith, we need to find others to journey with.

There are many different paths to becoming fully human, but none of them are walked alone.

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