When you decide to set a year of themes, at first you don’t really understand the implications. Something SEEMS right, and you go with it. One of our first tasks, as the four co-pastors of this new experimental team of leaders at Echoes, was thinking through themes for the year. After a fun session of brainstorming and asking Charis about the core identity and life of the community she has nurtured the past five years, we all came to this mutual sense of “Yes” about a year of Re’s.
Reframe, Release, Revive, Resurge,
Rewild, Resist, Repair, Remember,
Reveal, Remind, Relent
Re is a common root word, of course, meaning “back” or “again.” Interesting theme for 2019. I believe we are on the cusp of a magnificent shift forward in our culture and in our collective spiritual awakening. I sense that not in spite of the obvious cultural resistance to change (“Let’s make America great again!”), but because of it. Regressions are often a sign that change is on the horizon.
Joseph Campbell captured this pattern when he observed the progression of all great stories: the Hero’s Journey begins with a Call to Adventure, into some new perspective or way of being or way of living. And then, just about immediately, the resistance begins. He calls it “Refusing the Call.” Those who never answer the call get stuck in this regression, pining for how it used to be, stuck in regret, rebellion or a whole lot of other negative RE words that keep you in misery. Everyone else faces the resistance, eventually, and leans into the adventure of What is Waiting to Become through them. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or quit an addiction, or find new life after a major loss knows this process intimately.
Focusing on the looking back and again-ing acknowledges a deep, theological truth. That in the act of reframing and remembering and renewing, we imply that there is a framing and a membering and a newness that always was. And our spiritual practice, then, of returning back again to that place of “original blessing” (Matthew Fox’s words), is a return to an original rightness and meaning, which is necessary for us as we feel caught in the claws of pervasive perceived disconnection.
Religion, in fact, is the call to re-connect. Re: “again” and Ligios: “connection", the same Latin root as ligament: sinews which hold the bones, the structures together. The whole venture and adventure of religion is about the journey of re-connecting. With God, yes. With other people: your family and community and all the Others. Your species and not your species. Both like you and unlike you. Restoring original, kindred unity. And, also, a reconnection with the core of your own soul, the dwelling place of the Holy, of Christ.
Rather than an institution of separation, of who’s IN and who’s OUT…what if, instead, religion were a process of re-connecting with what is already whole? A connection back again to our own wholeness, our common spiritual vitality, our identity and role and sense of meaning as humans. What if religion was the re-membering of ourselves back into the reality that we are not separate at all, but part of a living system of inter-being? And what if a religious person is actually a person who says “Yes” to becoming a ligamenting agent of restoration in the world?
We didn’t really think about it at the time, but starting on a new adventure as a community with a plan to begin with a year of REs, of looking back, is actually a pretty good idea. It’s an invitation to explore together the possibility that the point of a spiritual life might just be participation in a restored, reunited, renewed, rewilded relationship with All That Is.