Rabbi Neil Goldstein, of New Shul, Alban Institute discusses “finding shelter for one’s soul” in religious communities:
One thing that has become crystal clear to me is that men and women are looking for communities, not congregations. Most people care very little about denominational labels or theology. Some don’t even care about the institution of religion itself (I know some individuals who actually belong to two or more different congregations of different faiths and move with ease between their respective worship services and programs).
The icons, symbols, and images of the past no longer hold power for this new generation of Americans. Some of the largest and most dynamic megachurches, for example, do not even have crosses in their facilities, let alone fixed pews or pulpits. What people seem to crave is a sense of community, a feeling of being wanted and known.
Ultimately, we want to be loved, and to find protection through that love. I believe that we need to rethink our congregations today less as houses of worship than as sanctuaries in the true, etymological meaning of the word—a place of safety and security. These are troubling times, and offering Americans a safe haven amidst the maelstrom around us is a very appealing gift. A sanctuary is different from a church or a synagogue. A sanctuary is not about symbols, rituals, sacred texts, or holy days—it is more about, as the Jewish evening liturgy states, being “guarded under the shelter of Your wings.” We have a military to guard our bodies. Who will protect our souls?
In this post-9/11 context, nothing will ever be the same—or, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed thousands of years ago, nothing ever is. That ought not be a cause for us to despair. Rather, it represents an opportunity as well as a challenge. As religious leaders for this new millennium, our task is to provide authentic spiritual anchors that will make the members of our many and varied faith communities feel safe and secure, while simultaneously offering them exciting, eclectic, and innovative approaches to living religious lives that will speak to them in a language that they will find accessible, enriching, and, in the end, transformational. We owe them no less.
Read it all here
This is a very different idea about congregations from Congregations Gone Wild by Jeffrey MacDonald in the NY Times that is receiving a lot of discussion.
What do you think?