The Call To Community – Winter 2014 Newsletter

December 2014

Dear Friends,

Along with a warm welcome to participate in the programs and events described below, I want to give you an update about our emerging vision.  As you may have heard, we’ve been talking as a community about changing the name of our building/institution from “church” to “spiritual center.” But it is more than a name change that we’re talking about, it is a paradigm shift.

We are talking about more boldly envisioning an inclusive community centered in Love. People of all kinds weaving together different expressions of love in one community: worship, music and arts, service,  meditation, study, prayer, hospitality, charity, social justice, peacemaking, connecting with and caring for nature, recovery community, supporting youth, caring for the homeless, healing of body, mind, and spirit.  In the new paradigm of “spiritual center” membership in the community would come through any such avenue of participation, rather than in the conventional model of “church” that requires religious participation. But could such an all-inclusive community be called “Christian”? Yes, authentically Christian but not exclusively Christian.  This is an interpretation of Christianity that is rooted in the inclusive, boundary-breaking love that Jesus preached and lived.

Within this emerging vision, our Sunday morning gatherings, focused on connecting with God and connecting with one another in God, remain central. Spiritual growth, asking the big questions of faith and ethics, and seeking out truth are and will remain essential to our community. We see the shift from “church” to “spiritual center” as an expansive move that will not diminish but rather enhance our common worship life. We hope that our worship life will become more relevant and vital within the broader community context of a “spiritual center”. Also, by inviting a wider spectrum of folks to become a part of our community the work of maintaining the institution of Common Street will be shared by many rather than falling exclusively to our relatively small group of folks who gather on Sundays. In the long run, we hope this will create the conditions of broad community support and engagement needed for Common Street to thrive and reach its full potential for serving the community of Natick and surrounding towns in various ways, making the best use of the resources that we have.

The main idea of Jesus’ preaching was the “Kingdom of God” and he was crystal clear that it included people of all ethnicities and religions. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, Jesus says that the way of life he is talking about is not religion-specific; the religious leaders in the parable don’t show compassion for their neighbor, but the Good Samaritan does, and that is what matters.  We envision our community as including some who identify as Christian and some who identify as spiritual-but-not-religious, humanist, agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, or a mixture, or who don’t want to be defined by any label. We accept and love all people as they are. We’re not trying to label, convert, and control but to set people free, to build what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the Beloved Community.” We are a community that supports one another in living authentically from our spiritual centers and growing in love. By distancing from a conventional model of church that excludes and builds walls of separation between people we believe we are moving closer to the way of Jesus: Love.

Blessings and Peace,

Pastor Ian