I’ve been looking at Susan Beaumont’s book, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, again. This time I’ve been reading more about the soul of an institution. As part of that discussion, Beaumont talks about the spirituality of an institution (pp. 57-59). She first quotes Mary Ann Huddleston, who defines spirituality as “the manner, mode, or way in which an individual or group lives out its doctrines, ideas, values, hopes, traditions and habits of faith.” Then she presents Corrine Ware’s four styles of spirituality: thinking, feeling, being, doing.
Ware explains that each faith community has its own preferred type of spirituality, represented by some blending of the four basic types. Most congregations express a strong preference for one or two types of spirituality and a lesser attachment to the other styles. (Note that in these Beaumont excerpts, I have used “holy,” where Beaumont is using “God.” I figured it might be easier for you to read if I made the switch for you.
Congregations that favor a head, or “thinking,” spirituality are attracted to sermons, lectures, and study as a way of experiencing the holy. These congregations value understanding ideas about the holy…. They demonstrate a love of order and desire for things to be rational and logical.
When I first read this, I stopped right here and said, YES, this is UUCA. But then I kept reading.
Congregations with a heart spirituality know the holy by “feeling” the holy’s presence. A congregation that favors this spirituality type over the others will experience highs and lows in religious feelings…. Heart spirituality is most often engaged through spontaneous experiences, through music, testimony, and more informal worship styles.
Hmmmm…probably not us.
A congregation with a “being” spirituality values the journey. In fact, the quest is more important than an arrival. Being is more important than doing. This spiritual type values a mystical approach to the holy. They enjoy pausing to listen for the holy…. This congregation enjoys contemplation, wordless prayer, and experiences of silence and stillness.
I thought the line about the journey was going to be us. But turns out the journey is a bit more mystical than I was thinking so I would say that this definitely describes some of us, but we don’t practice it very much as a whole congregation. Although we are better than most UU congregations at holding a several-minute silence during the meditative part of our worship services.
Finally, some congregations embrace a spirituality of “doing.” These congregations experience the holy best when they are actively working to advance a cause for which they are passionate. They are rooted in social concerns and are often impatient with the passivity of the other types.
I know this is true of some of us, probably more of us than the “being” group, but again, is it the spirituality of the congregation as a whole?
I am sure that every congregation does have its own recipe for spirituality, just like every classroom has its own “personality.” But it’s not so easy to discern. Here’s my guess. Send me yours!