The value of spiritual tradition


episcopal churchAmid all the highly-educated, skeptical (and often respectful) respondents to a column about the value of faith David Brooks published this week in the New York Times, I found this comment from a practicing Episcopalian. It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air about how and why simply going to church still has deep value for people who want to find ways to make the world a better place, one person at a time. Elizabeth Fuller, from Peterborough, New Hampshire wrote:

“I am an Episcopalian and go to church every Sunday and then some. Belief is not something I concern myself with much. Gratitude is probably at the base of my attendance. I am grateful for the spiritual traditions that, over the centuries, have attempted to articulate our dreams for a better world. I respect and value pure secularists, but so many of them seem to be people who left the church, quite often in anger, and I have to wonder if they have neglected to see that some of what now constitutes their spirituality they owe to the questions, the dialogue, the spiritual yearning the institutional church has wrestled with over the centuries. Those institutions, as misguided as they may sometimes be, provide places to discuss issues of depth — to underline and keep alive values that go beyond mere profit.

This Sunday at my local church, during announcements, an almost non-understandable voice rang out from the back. It was that of a man who had not been to church in over thirty years, yet in his present grief found himself among us. We prayed for him and sat with him after the service. Did it matter whether our prayers were heard by anyone other than us? Not all that much to me. What mattered is that we acknowledged together our common griefs, our struggles, and our deep yearnings for a world in which we find meaning in caring for others. The institutional church is a place, to me, that keeps that yearning alive.”