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Spiritual But Not Religious?

06.05.19 | by Jonathan Totty

Spiritual But Not Religious?

    Deacon Jonathan Totty reflects on what it means to be religious, but not spiritual, in the Episcopal Church.

    Spiritual but not Religious?

                 What is Christian spirituality? More and more, I have friends who claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Oddly enough, some of these same friends have found the life and liturgy of the Episcopal Church inspiring and beautiful. I find it odd that my “spiritual bur not religious” friends are impressed by Anglican worship in the Episcopal church, because we Episcopalians tend to err on the other end of the spectrum. That is, many Episcopalians tend to be “religious” but not very “spiritual.” For example, we like our worship and liturgy to be beautiful, orderly, and dignified, but we do not feel the need have many personal feelings about the affair.

                But, it also remains true that something in the ethos of Anglican worship in its form in the Episcopal church lends itself to a deep and profound spirituality. However, I do not think my spiritual but not religious friends are quite right either. Actually, I would argue that it is Anglican religiosity that gives content to our expression of Christian Spirituality. In the Eucharist, our principal Sunday service, we stand to sing God’s praises and hear the Gospel proclaimed, and we kneel to confess our sins. We bow to God as we join our voices to the voices of heavens choirs of angels, and we receive Christ under the visible signs of bread and wine. We do these acts of piety and worship religiously. We enter into the worship of the Church without fully comprehending the meaning or significance of the ritual. We are indeed a religious people. Yet, we truly meet God in our acts of religious devotion. For us, religion is the medium through which we grow spiritually. God meets us in our worship, and our all our individual prayers flow from the prayer we pray corporately as the Church every Sunday.

                Christian spirituality, then, is not detached from religion. We practice Christianity as a religion, making space in our lives for God to meet us and for us to meet him. As we practice Christianity, our spiritual lives flourish, we find the meaning that only God can give to our lives, and we are transformed into people who live by Spirit of God.

               

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