by Don Chatfield
Do you remember what first made you feel at home at the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson? Was it a warm greeting from an usher? Perhaps it was inspiring music provided by a soloist or the choir. It might have been a Sunday talk that spoke deeply to you. Maybe a member spoke with you after the service and helped you feel welcome. All of these things are vital components of the community that we are building at the Center.
A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that the fastest growing segment of our population is those with no religious affiliation. The Pew research found that one-fifth of the U.S. public, and a full third of those under age 30, are religiously unaffiliated. Of those without a religious affiliation, about 37 percent consider themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” (a group commonly referred to as SBNR). Those who classify themselves as SBNR tend to believe in God, find a deep connection in nature, and pray regularly. Most of this group, however, say that they are not seeking a spiritual community. They tend to practice their spirituality individually.
At the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, many of us can identify with the sentiments of the SBNR population. Some of us have previously dealt with pressure to believe a certain way, experienced unpleasant expectations about behavior, or seen excesses in the name of organized religion. For many of us, our first experience at the Center was like a homecoming. Our New Thought philosophy provides a practical spirituality that is “open at the top,” providing each of us with an opportunity to experience and express our spirituality in a way that makes sense to us. Drawing from truths of many spiritual traditions, we experience Sunday celebrations that are meaningful and inspiring.
While enjoying this personal freedom of spiritual expression, we also enjoy the many benefits of a spiritual community. It is these benefits that keep me attending the Center. While I sometimes enjoy meditating alone in the mountains or by a stream, I find vitality and encouragement in meeting regularly with others who are on a spiritual path.
Over the years, I’ve experienced the warmth of deep discussion in classes offered at the Center, along with numerous new friendships that grew from these connections. I’ve enjoyed laughter and connection at socials and community meals. I have savored the sound of a familiar voice on the telephone when I was hospitalized. And I have leaned on strong shoulders when I was feeling discouraged or stuck. I hope that you’ve had many of these same experiences.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German politician, author, and poet described the importance of community in this way: “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and….is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”
I’m delighted that this “community garden” is growing at the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson. Many have commented on the positive energy enjoyed in recent celebration services and the importance of being together with one another. Over the coming year the Board of Trustees, along with the Team Leads, will be working to provide additional tools to deepen our connection as a loving community. I invite you to explore ways to deepen your connection with our community.
President, Board of Trustees