It occurred to me today, after my “Secular Pilgrimage” along the Freethought Trail in New York, that my “spiritual journey” is a story to tell and re-tell, not just to explain my “exodus” out of faith, but to remind myself how deep and wide my river travels have been.
I have, over the years, journeyed on many streams. . .
Recited Bible passages from memory in front of a Presbyterian congregation
Prayed for salvation while watching Billy Graham on a black and white television
Went on retreats with born-again Baptists
Shared the gospel on streets and beaches with Campus Crusade for Christ
Raised my hands in praise, speaking in tongues with Pentecostals
Sung in a youth choir, an adult church choir and a college chorus
Played guitar and studied the Bible in a house church with a “Messianic Jew”
Sat and walked in silent meditation with Zen Priests
Chanted Hebrew songs in a variety of synagogues
Placed my forehead down on prayer rugs in a mosque or two
Taken the Holy Eucharist with thousands in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris
Joined other pilgrims in an old stone chapel on the island of Iona in Scotland
Was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister
as the streams flowed on, I have also. . .
Served as an Interfaith Chaplain for decades
Danced with ecstatic Sufis
Prayed with Christian Scientists, Mormons and Baha’is
Sat quietly with Quakers
Walked with Wiccans
Meditated with Hindus
Sweated in a sweat lodge with Native Americans
Taught Pagan chaplains
Led spiritual discussions among Black, White, Asian and Latino Jail inmates
Taught courses on World Wisdom in congregations
Performed weddings with a Rabbi friend
Joined memorial processions with homeless folks of many faiths and none
Organized annual Interfaith thanksgiving services in congregations
Directed a homeless shelter with the support of many religions
Held discussions with Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists and Freethinkers
Organized and led a “Secular Sanctuary” group walking and reading wisdom in Nature
Managed affordable housing for an Ecumenical agency
Taught courses on Freethinkers
And the rivulets and waterfalls roll on. . .
When I reflect on all these experiences I’m not ashamed or embarrassed; I don’t wish I had been a Freethinker way back when (well, maybe sometimes). No, I think of the names and faces, the good people I met and continue to meet, those with deep faith, and those with no particular faith.
I don’t think of God. I think of Good.
It’s been a wild, wacky and wonderful journey. The common ground for almost all of this has been natural–natural goodness and the common goal of a happier, healthier world. I no longer believe. But I’m confident we can journey forward with all our differences, to be refreshed by the water, even if we don’t share the same streams.