Community/resources for the religious-but-not-churchy?
March 4, 2013 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I’ve become a person of (some) faith in the past year, and my life has been better for it. But it feels lonely not to fit into either the secular or religious communities—I'm not far enough along the spectrum one way or the other. Is there any way I can meet other people in a similar place? (Sorry, a little long and snowflake-y.)

Over the past year or so, I’ve made some profound positive changes in my life, including dealing with longtime depression, in part by getting back in touch with my religion/spirituality. (YMMV. IANAD. Or a priest.) I don’t quite identify with the popular label “spiritual-but-not-religious”—I actually do feel connected to a specific religion (Catholic/Christian), even if I don’t adhere to all of its tenets*.

My problem is that although I’m far enough along the spiritual/religious continuum to identify as a believer, I’m still not far enough toward the seriously-faithful end that I feel very comfortable going to mass/church. I’ve tried several, Catholic and otherwise, and although first I thought I just hadn’t found the right fit (this one’s too politically conservative, that one’s too liturgically liberal, etc.), now I’m starting to think there might not be a right church for me, or at least not where I currently live (not a very big city). Instead of unifying, it feels sort of alienating when I try it—so many strangers, and I worry that we aren't on the same wavelength and that they would judge me if they knew about my less-than-ironclad religious convictions.

So far I’ve rekindled my spirituality mostly through solitary pursuits—music, books, contemplation and prayer. But I’m starting to feel the need for some kind of, if not community, at least companionship or friendship in my spiritual life—people I can talk to about this stuff.

I did read this thread, but didn’t find it to be quite what I was looking for, since I’m not a Secular Humanist; I’m just a not-very-good believer. But I was struck by the last comment in the thread, in which somebody mentioned Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m really worried about this sounding naïve and tone-deaf, so I hope anyone who’s in AA will forgive me if I’m being an idiot, but recently after happening upon a few novels involving AA I found myself sort of wishing for that kind of community—one where people with different levels of faith in their Higher Power might talk openly with each other, and where there’s a practical, almost down-to-earth approach to faith and prayer. That’s the kind of spirituality I’m interested in. But not struggling with alcoholism (and I know I’m lucky to be able to say that and I truly don’t mean to trivialize it), I don’t know where I would meet people like that.

So my question is: if not at a church, is there anywhere I can meet people like me, who believe but are maybe only semi-practicing in their religion? Is there a place where I can talk to kind, smart, practical people about God ‘N’ Stuff without feeling ashamed for not being as religiously faithful as other people? Could there be a community for me out there? (For reference, closest major metro area is the Twin Cities, though it's a ways away.) Thank you so much for reading all this—I feel less alone already just by putting this out there.

*I know some people might say that Catholicism is a religion where you’re all in or you're all out. I guess all I can say is that Catholic spirituality feels the most real to me, and it’s not really something I can explain. The Church probably does not actually want me. It’s hard.
posted by honey wheat to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about getting involved with some sort of activist/volunteer effort tangentially involving your religion? There's something out there for virtually any sect+cause combination. Everything from collecting food for hungry people to chaining yourself to the White House fence for environmental justice. I bet you'd get a solid mix of people who have varying relationships to their faith but are united in dedication to the same project. And even if the whole thing fails as a faith've done something good!
posted by threeants at 8:05 PM on March 4, 2013 directs you to a group of intentional Catholics in the Twin Cities. Kindof a break away group. I am not familiar with their current incarnation (!), and they may fall too far into the crazy liturgy spectrum for you, but I know they are a serious group who have struggled to find a place to reconcile their beliefs with their Catholicism.
posted by Malla at 8:15 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it too obvious to say Unitarian Universalism, or have you already discarded that suggestion for some reason? They are pretty much made up of people exactly like you (also atheist/secularists, pagans, and "nonspecifics" in varying mixes).

I am a new one as of last year, so I'm not wanting to be all Yay My Thing I Like, but there are lots of practicing spiritual people in them but no judgment for those who are not sure about their labels. Just the opposite.

The church I was last in leaned more pagan/wiccan/Buddhist; this one is fairly evenly split between humanists and more spiritual types, to the point that you pick your adult ed class based on which group you want to learn from that day. But regardless of a particular church's flavor, they welcome all. I have certainly met many former Catholics there.
posted by emjaybee at 8:22 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Look for a bible study group. When I was viewed by others as a "nondenominational Christian" bible study meant more to me than church.
posted by Michele in California at 8:28 PM on March 4, 2013

Catholic spirituality feels the most real to me too (I love that way of putting it), and I'm pretty happy at a Unitarian Universalist church. It's not perfect, but it gives me the ritual and symbolism - while being a community that cares more about whether you're responsible and thoughtful in your spiritual journey than what you end up believing.
posted by synchronia at 9:00 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely check out the Unitarian Universalist churches in your area. I suspect it may be what you are looking for.

Emjaybee's right that the different congregations vary a lot. The one I grew up in was basically a progressive Protestant church with a distinctly pluralist bent, but it was also in a fairly traditional suburb (hell, the church site itself dated back to like 1705 or something). But a lot of UU churches are much more freewheeling/diverse. And either way, you'd never be judged for your beliefs.
posted by lunasol at 9:03 PM on March 4, 2013

I'm usually the first to come into a "find my church" thread with a recommendation for UU churches, but if you're specifically Christian and drawn towards Catholicism then many UU churches won't fill that need (and they'll probably drive you up a wall.) Maybe try Episcopal churches for the combination of liberal theology and ritual?
posted by Daily Alice at 9:20 PM on March 4, 2013

Yeah, I second the Episcopal recommendation. Especially look for ones that tout inclusiveness and diversity.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:36 PM on March 4, 2013

If you can get to Minneapolis, you should visit Solomon's Porch. I think you'd find a lot of kindred spirits there.
posted by belladonna at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2013

I grew up Catholic, and virtually all my family is "partially in." For instance, birth control is used, they are not necessarily anti-choice but don't feel comfortable talking about it, yadda yadda. So don't fall for that "you’re all in or you're all out" line.

I married a Presbyterian and have been Presby pretty much for most of our time together. My son has a job at an Episcopal Church, though, and there are a lot of similarities to the Catholic Church that feel comfortable to me. The Lutheran Church is another one that gives me that vibe (note that there are multiple Lutheran denominations, some more conservative, some more liberal).
posted by Doohickie at 10:03 AM on March 5, 2013

Other Catholics might not agree with me, but I would say that a lot of Catholics aren't "all in" these days, and you may find like minds at a local parish. Then again, taking a religion course at a local college may also bring you into contact with others who are thinking seriously about religion.

Good luck, it should be worthwhile whatever you do!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:22 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be a Quaker. See if there's a "religious society of friends" in your community. I discovered mine a year or so ago, and it has richly enhanced and changed my life.
posted by jbickers at 6:50 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

i've heard of something called Cursillo which is a Catholic thing. you might want to check out one of their weekends. there is one in the twin cities: cursillo weekend. it looks to be some sort of beginner course/encounter with jesus from what i remember hearing about it. i think it is similar to the Alpha Course which is big in protestant circles. i did Alpha at a great church and loved it.

you could also find a spiritual director. i think a great thing to do would be to do some volunteer work with a Catholic group/church. pick something you have a real passion for and i bet you will meet like-minded folks.

i put catholic spirituality twin cities into google and lots of stuff showed up.
posted by wildflower at 11:47 PM on March 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you to everybody for all the thoughtful answers! I appreciate it so much!
posted by honey wheat at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2013

Yeah, Unitarian Universalist seems obvious and tailor-made for you. But I think the suggestion to check out the Quakers is also a good idea. They are much more open-minded than you might think. There ARE some more progressive Catholic Churches where you might feel at home, but probably not in a small community.
posted by catatethebird at 9:12 PM on March 22, 2013

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