I was privileged to hear someone’s story several days ago. This individual shared their journey into faith. What was interesting was just one small line they said, one that really caused me to pause. Having never previously possessed any faith of consequence, they shared how they were arriving at faith, in their middle years, without baggage.
Think about it. Imagine arriving at faith, belief, God – whatever word you choose – without baggage. I see so many folks who end up in the New Church because of baggage around their former faith. Likewise I see many who have left the New Church for the same reason.
The image that comes to mind is God painting on a clean canvas. Of course, none of our lives is without baggage, without, knicks, cuts, smudges. But wow, to be witness to God’s starting to paint without all the pre-existing garbage – what a blessing that must be.
What was actionable for me in hearing this story was the thought that maybe that is part of our faith journey – traveling to the point where we can arrive “naked” in the sense that we are without the baggage of “religion” in its formal garb. I know there is a great need for caution with these words because religion arguably gives us the container in which to grow and without which we might miss the necessary structures that give someone some thing to come to. I know absolutely, in my life, I would have been/ will be completely lost without the formal structures of the Pittsburgh New Church, the Academy of the New Church, and NewChurch LIVE.
And it remains equally true, when thinking about arriving without baggage, maybe God’s painting “takes” faster to the well-prepped, clean surface. Maybe there is room to push part of the outreach efforts of NewChurch LIVE that direction – in the direction of helping people see religious faith sans baggage. Maybe that informs Swedenborg’s stress that church best grows among gentiles – good folks, open folks, who are not involved in a formal religion who when they find it, can jump in both feet.