I recently spent an evening with a Shaman travelling group. I took along the native American rattle I own. It’s old now but was made by a member of the Paiute tribe of Indians in Nevada . The arrow heads and feathers tied with leather strips are now showing their age but it’s still a wonderful symbol, a kind of spiritual key to another reality. It is not a child’s toy.
I had a wonderful evening. I journeyed with the group and connected with parts of myself I hadn’t met before. The guide was experienced, grounded, and present. It was a lovely adventure.
And then when I left I realised that the guide hadn’t used any technique that I hadn’t myself used in a Christian workshop or retreat. Part of the mystical side of Christianity is the journey within to connect with our guides. Sometimes the journey is simply to re-connect with the parts of ourself that we’ve long since stopped listening to; the child within us or the wise parent figure. For some these manifest themselves as people, and for others as animals, or even different energies. Connecting with our guardian angels, those guides that watch over us, also often begins with a form of meditation or ‘travelling’, but has a different locus, a different focus. Tapping into our own healing energies, or those in nature, to help with our own healing and the healing of others is an ancient tradition that transcends religious boundaries. Connecting with the universal energy that offers itself as a gift to some has been the mark of a healer for millennia, and certainly pre-dates Christianity.
I’m sad that the Christian Church has a reputation for legalism, (arguably well earned in the west), because some of the richer and more mystical traditions are the ones I find the most exciting. Celtic Christianity binds us to each other and the land in ways that we might find surprising. New Age Christianity has a lot to teach us about being open to the subjective rather than the objective, (in other words the way that God is moving rather than the way God has moved in the past). And of course Quakers have been practising a form of this ‘listening’ since the 1650’s.
In my experience Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans people have a uniqueness which is invaluable when exploring faith. Because we find ourselves on the fringes of a social structure we experience a unique view and our world becomes a lot bigger. What is possible is freed from the mundane by our uniquely subjective perspective. Not always, but often. Standing at the edge of the water we uniquely recognise that our pond is not all there is, a perspective denied anyone who has never had reason to lift their head above the surface of the water. Of course it isn’t just LGBT people who do this; once you dip your toes into the mysticism of any faith you begin to see that others have done so too, and are doing so even now.
If you want to explore your Spiritual side then don’t dismiss the church as a resource. Sure, if you journey outside of The Village MCC then be careful how you choose your church as some can be parochial and legalistic in ways that can damage us. But some are really exciting, aren’t afraid to plunge deep, and can introduce you to mystical journeys you wouldn’t believe.