The word “faith” is used a great deal in religious circles. Yet, how often do we stop to think about how we use it, or what it might really mean in our lives? How you have heard, and/or used the word “faith” over the years? Has it changed?… How do you understand the relationship between individual faith and faith expressed in the actions of the faith community? When have you experienced faith as a powerful, individual relationship with God? When have you felt that you were truly connected with the faith of a community of believers?
I certainly felt that in 1988 at General Council where we made the decision around gays and lesbians and ministry. and again when the church worldwide worked on the Jubilee Debt forgiveness campaign. I feel it now as we begin to work with Grandmothers to Grandmothers in Africa, or when we work together on projects none of us could do on our own….Being part of a faith community has been very important to me….But so has individual faith. Sometimes the faith of others has held me up and supported me when my own faith was faltering, and I was feeling lost and forgotten; and I know many have leaned on my faith in times of stress when I was feeling stronger.
In my early years, faith meant believing a lot of facts…Believing literally in the Bible…believing every doctrine of the church, even those that did not always relate to my experience of life. I had to believe in a virgin birth if I was a person of faith. I had to believe in a literal trinity. I had to believe that creation actually happened in 7 days. I had to believe in a physical resurrection. For a lot of Christians still today…Faith is defined as belief.
You know this if you talk to people who have rejected faith …They will tell you it is because they simply canâ€™t believe a lot of stuff they were taught. And then when I ask them about what orients their lives….what matters to them…what they really value; what gives their lives meaning…They speak about things like relationships, family; a relationship with nature that leaves them with a sense of awe…..walking in mountains….watching the lilies in their gardens and the birds of the air in their back yards. They speak of gratitude for life…..the wonder of birth…and of death…. They speak of work that matters. And they are surprised when I tell them that they are talking about a life of faith. They are talking about where they put their trust; where their lives are rooted.