I went to my nearest Center for Spiritual Living for church last week. I had meant to go to sacrament meeting at my ward but my alarm clock (my 2 year old) didn't wake me up until 9:30 and church starts at 9... That's the story of our lives.
I loved attending the service. The sermon was on envisioning God as whatever is good, beautiful, lovely, etc and then from that vision of God, manifesting that beauty and goodness in your own life. The sermon then moved onto what keeps us from connecting with that beauty in life and the Spirit--focusing too much on the negatives of the moment, or the causes of those negativity, when we should instead be looking towards God to inspire us to properly deal with those situations. The pastor/minister/reverend, heck I don't know, led the congregation in thinking of what in our lives hold us back from experiencing that joy. Is it hurtful things people have told us that we have come to believe? Is it situations that discourage and depress us? She then invited everyone to declare their independence from whatever barriers were holding them back from experiencing joy in their lives.
I totally identified with what she was saying. I was in tears for a lot of the service and it was such a relief from my LDS ward. At this point, I've committed myself to attend CSL or the UU church once a month and my LDS ward the other Sundays.
I must comment on the music since its so strikingly different than the organ music of the LDS hymns. I love the hymns but I'm often ready for a new genre of music to present those melodies. At the Center for Spiritual Living, there was a soulful black singer who started it off and ended the sermon with the song "You Are So Beautiful to Me." There was an amazing electric violinist who performed a Turkish piece. It sounded very Arab, but with bass drums. It was truly amazing. I wished I knew more bellydance so I could have danced in the aisles....The benediction was the congregation singing a praise hymn of dancing and singing. I really can't wait to go back.
My Mormon understanding gave me some additional insights. In the space in "I declare my independence from...." I filled in "the blood and sins of this generation." If I'm honest with myself that is really what is currently upsetting me most. I mourn for this world and all the mixed up confusion and wrongness that is perpetuated in it. It was really empowering to say to myself that I can free myself from acting in accordance with all that I see wrong in the world and that I can hand it over to God to inspire me in the ways I can do this.
My Mormon (and Unitarian) sensibilities were slightly off put by the conceptual reference to God in the service. It seems that they are one step ahead of the Unitarians in that they are happy to express a belief in God and that from God emanates spirit. Yet it seems that the God they conceptualize is very much the God of the Nicene creed "formless, without shape, gender, being, etc." I knew that many people in the congregation would be uncomfortable with even the term God (the woman sitting next to me filled in Spirit for God...when I was a teenager, I did something similar by interchanging love for God.). I'm sure that some of the people in the room were having to free themselves of a vision of God as a stern, demanding, exacting male figure that inspired fear, rather than light and goodness. There was no reference to God as a gendered being, probably due to the inequality of a belief in a male God.
Throughout it all, I wished that the congregation could have shared my vision of God. Male and female, embodied and distinct from one another but perfectly loving and united in purpose. People like us, but whom have progressed to complete knowledge and understanding of all things. To be honest, I think even some would challenge this belief as well. Because wouldn't a homosexual, in their envisioning of God, prefer a homosexual couple to a heterosexual couple? Maybe I'm wrong on that.
All that said, I wouldn't leave the LDS church completely for the Center for Spiritual Living. I love how my Mormon belief deepens and enlivens the service that I attended today. I wish that the LDS church was more like CSL in the realness of the people, heartfelt sharing and music. The material was drawn from all over, not limited to the repetition of what has been correlated. The fellowship structure among Mormons is better too. We were strangers there and no one spoke to us (except the greeter) but it was not personal. In that church, I may make friends but I wouldn't have Home teachers or Visiting teachers. If only the two could come together seamlessly, that would be an amazing church....