When a core group of us began Sacred Journeys almost three years ago, it was with the intent to create a place where people were free to explore their faith without fear of being told they were wrong, or that it was wrong to question or to doubt. We deeply desired a spiritual community that was free from an institution that would try to dictate our spiritual journeys, and tell us what to believe and how to behave. This place would also be one where every person was safe to be who God created them to be, and safe to mess up and still be loved no matter what.
Contrary to how this might sound, it didn’t quite make this endeavor a free for all. In fact, in some ways it has meant much more work for each of us personally than it might have otherwise. Instead of signing on to a set doctrine and dogma, we signed on to learn and grow, to explore and change, to study and try new things. And while we come at spirituality from a distinctly Christian point of view, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from other faith traditions. None of us believes we have it exactly right.
So, it was interesting to get to a point in our corporate existence where we had a few young women who were approaching traditional “confirmation age.” The problem was that we didn’t have a set of rules and beliefs that we wanted them to learn and confirm their belief in. Nor did we believe that joining the church should be the end goal of this sort of process (in our minds the girls already belong, they didn’t need to jump through hoops to prove it), so we set about doing things differently. We decided to call our program Quest, and set the girls on a spiritual adventure to learn more about God, religion and, most importantly, themselves. We did not set out to give them answers, but to help them learn to not be afraid to ask the questions and to glean what they could from every experience.
Yesterday these three girls celebrated the completion of their one-year spiritual quest. During that year we talked about how the journey is not simply somewhere we go and something we do, but it is an interior journey to finding the Divine within as we discover our true selves. We talked about how to look at scripture from different points of view, and how to look at Bible stories metaphorically to find the deeper meanings. We talked about prayer and practiced meditation, we played with art and spirituality, talked about the body-mind-spirit connection, and explored other religions and other Christian denominations. We had fireside chats to talk informally about God, our questions, what we’ve heard and what we believe. They did service projects at a food pantry, the Eco-Justice Center and volunteering at church on Sunday morning. I am proud that they have engaged this journey in the way they have, freely sharing their questions and thoughts and being willing to try all kinds of new things. In fact, they have probably done a number of things that most of us probably have not done. I know that they have grown.
My deepest hope is that this has given them tools for their future. For the spiritual journey is not just a one time thing, but lasts lifetime. There are always new questions and new places inside and outside of ourselves to explore.