All posts by Carolyn S-R (Koinonia)

Carolyn and her husband, Randy, began the Koinonia Community, a rural SW Washington house church, in 1995. A freelance writer and editor, she is passionate about writing for the culture-at-large, and teaching and shepherding in the Church of Jesus Christ. Married 35 years, she and Randy have six children and three grandchildren.

The varieties of religious experience (with apologies to William James)

people praying photo

We always eat really well at our weekly potluck supper, and Saturday night was no exception. Homemade split pea soup flavored with hocks from pigs one of our families raised was the centerpiece–and of course pies for dessert . . . because it was pi day (3/14/15)!

We got to talking about the emphasis that Jesus places on relationship in the Gospel of Mark. Someone commented that people then and there could do that, because they could shake his hand, or kick him in the shins, if they were so inclined: All we can do, he said, is think about Jesus and his ideas, because you can’t have a relationship with someone you can’t see.

Someone else talked about knowing him through the words of Scripture. Then a third person volunteered that dyslexia makes it really hard for him to engage with the Bible. Someone asked him, so how do you experience God?

It tends to be easier for our community to talk about ideas sometimes than about ourselves, but that question opened the door to a first-person conversation about ourselves: about how–and whether–we experience God, pray, etc.

The takeaway?

  • We experience God in different ways.
  • We don’t always know and certainly can’t prove what’s God, what’s hormonal or biochemical or electrical (brainwaves, e.g.), and what’s a weird dream caused by the pizza we had for supper.
  • That’s uncomfortable.
  • Just because it’s biochemical or electrical doesn’t mean it’s not God. The God of the Creation and the Incarnation just might feel really free to manifest himself through natural laws and through our bodies.
  • Many churches use music, lighting, etc. to manipulate people into experiencing a physiological and emotional rush in the name of worship.
  • One of the powerful ways we experience God is through each other, including talking about and listening to each other talk about our individual experiences of the presence, absence or possibility of God.

Pigs, Hollywood, Suffering, Etc.

pigs photo
Tonight over potluck supper in the living room I heard conversations about our pigs (one family is raising them, we’re all bringing buckets of food scraps to help feed them, and we’re going to work together to slaughter and butcher them and share the meat in another couple of months); who was the better actor, James Stewart or Humphrey Bogart; Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship; why parenting is so hard; and how various people in our fellowship first met each other.

Once we got warmed up, we tackled Ecclesiastes and the Incarnation, Hebrews 11 (what’s faith: intellectual assent? trust? hearing God speak and responding to him? all of the above?), Job 39-42 (after all the clutter had been cleared away and all the arguments argued to impasse, God shows up and reveals himself–but still no answers!–to Job . . . what’s up with that?), Mark 3 (what should the relationship of the supernatural to our lives look like? what has it looked like in the past? what *is* the supernatural, anyway?), the relationship of the spiritual and material (is the body bad? neutral? good? how is it supposed to be connected to the spiritual world?), and suffering (one of our number shared how suffering–speaking of Job!–is allowing him to connect with God in ways he’s never been able to before).

We closed out the evening by praying for and blessing one family’s new baby, born last month, and washing our dishes.

Spell House Church Z-O-O

chaos photoWell, not always. Not even most of the time. But sometimes.
We haven’t met for a month. That wasn’t planned, but between Christmas, a lot of sickness, and a new baby, that’s the way it happened.

Sometimes we call ourselves the Angry Doubters. Or the Awkwards. We are people in very different places in our spiritual journeys. But all on journeys, and all trying to travel together.

Tonight, one family came early and brought us a much-welcomed gift: a pick-up load of firewood from a tree that blew down in their yard in November. After everyone else arrived, we shared a potluck supper.

We have four kids three and under, and two on the autism spectrum. So we are virtually never all at the table at the same time. Small children wander around during meal time. Adults hover near the table holding children, adults chase children, a mom breaks away to nurse.

Usually, we manage to connect a little better after supper. The kids play together, the adults gather around the fire with coffee or tea. But not tonight.

One child fell down the stairs. Another was standing behind a door when someone opened it, planting the doorknob in his forehead. A third periodically let loose with shattering screams, chased cats and laid into the dog with a toy sword. Potty accidents. Fights. Perpetual motion. And most of the adults were pretty well done before we started—the effects of one new baby, two hard Christmases, and lots of sickness.

So we were never able to collectchaos photoourselves enough to read or discuss a chapter of Mark, which we are (were? will be?) reading together. In fact we were never even able to collect ourselves enough to have one single conversation. But there were various smaller conversations going on in the midst of the bedlam and around the edges. Milton’s Paradise Lost. Solzhenitsyn. How the new mom is doing. The ups and downs of Christmas. The significance of our tattoos. Videos one family is using that are helping their two autistic boys with their language skills. The relentless assault of media, social and other, on our interior space, and ways to shut it off and tune it out.

And that’s the best we could manage tonight. But it was good to be (almost) all together again after a month, we’ll see each other individually through the week, and we’ll gather for supper together again, Lord willing, next Saturday evening.