Spiritual vs. religious?

During the past week, I have been following a back-and-forth on my facebook newsfeed and twitter timeline discussing the religious response to the “spiritual but not religious” label, and a thoughtful and thought-provoking invitation to engage with both labels and their baggage (please find links to the essay by Lillian Daniels and response from Kurt Wiesner, who also prompted the conversation I’ve been following, below).*

I found myself drawn into the debate when I wondered, “Is this a false dichotomy?” Asked to explain myself, I posted this on facebook:

I suppose I mean that my religion(/ous practice) is a vehicle for my spirituality. In prayer, worship, service, I make explicit my recognition of (gratitude to, dependence upon) God; the religious traditions and communities in which I’ve been raised help articulate that spirituality. In my life, they’re interdependent. Big-time!

Needless to say, perhaps I’ve been lucky!

Then I remembered this story, which I wrote up five years ago in an update to my spiritual autobiography commissioned by my Vocations Committee when I was applying for Postulancy (and if any of those terms needs a glossary, let me know! That could be my next blog entry!), which I think illustrates that interplay in my own spiritual but still religious life:

During the last week of our travels, staying at my father’s home, I missed the one church service for the combined villages of the area that Sunday. I found out when I walked down to the church to check the time of the service, which we had thought to be in the evening. I was upset to discover our mistake, but surprised to find the church doors still open; they are usually kept locked when no one is there. I went in and sat in the pew where, just a year ago, I had sat for my mother’s funeral. I decided to read and pray through the service by myself, and when I reached the Communion prayers, I was warmly comforted. I knew myself at that moment to be in communion with those people who had sat there this morning at Communion, a year ago at the funeral, fifteen years ago at our wedding; with my friends at home who, five time zones away, would be in their own churches just now; with, in short, the communion of saints. It was an extraordinary and most wonderful feeling. Afterwards, I walked back up the hill to my father’s house, and shared the Peace with my children.


* Lillian Daniels’ essay: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/daily-devotional/spiritual-but-not-religious.html#.Tl6ZHN_2428.facebook

Kurt Wiesner’s reflection: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/people/encountering_the_spiritual_but.html#more

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
This entry was posted in other words and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s