Choosing a Spiritual Community: A Guide
Looking for a spiritual community that is right for you is a tender and sometimes perplexing process. Please take your time, breathe deeply if anything feels stressful and smile often as you embark on this significant journey.
This brief guide provides some helpful questions to ask yourself before you begin, what to ask a member and what to look for when visiting a community. Please choose those that seem helpful to your unique quest. This is not another to-do list!
What do you want most from a spiritual community ?
Being as clear as possible about your own needs and preferences is a good place to start.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
What is drawing me to add this to my life?
How do I imagine my life will change when I belong to a spiritual community?
What do I hope to enjoy in the process and the resolution?
Am I looking for something like what I grew up with or something new? Or perhaps you are open to either.
Some aspects people commonly seek are:
a place to belong
a deeper connection with the Divine
a place to grow spiritually
an opportunity to be of service
social and educational programs
a meaningful and impactful worship service
available pastoral care in difficult times
a compatible approach to the spiritual life
openness to diversity
a place to attend a worship service regularly
You may have individual needs such as healing from a negative experience in a spiritual community or meeting new people if you’ve just moved. You may be looking for a family-oriented or contemplative group. You may prefer a small or large membership.
What to ask a community member:
What do you most like about this community?
Are there any things you would like to see changed?
In what ways do you and others participate in the community?
What keeps you and others active?
Is the community self-reflective?
Is communication clear?
Are the goals and mission clear and visible in the activities?
What to look for when you visit:
Pay close attention to your own feelings and sensations while you are there and after you leave.
Note when you feel uplifted or if there are times when you tense up.
Notice whether you feel good about yourself when you are there.
Is there a welcoming atmosphere for all?
Are the apparent spiritual beliefs, theology, assumptions and values compatible with yours?
Did you encounter anything new or thought-provoking?
Is there an apparent focus on love and kindness?
Are you encouraged to explore at your own pace?
Are channels of communication apparent and open?
Did you meet people you’d like to get to know better?
Do you enjoy being in this particular community?
What is your experience of the worship leader (minister, rabbi, priest, etc.)
Do you feel an affinity with them?
Does (s)he seem like someone you’d feel comfortable talking with on a personal level?
Did you find the talk they gave helpful, inspiring or challenging in a good way?
Making the decision
Begin with a prayer or intention for clarity and guidance.
Are you allowing yourself spaciousness, plenty of time to decide?
Are you looking forward to coming back?
Do you have questions that concern you that you need to ask?
Recognize that no one community has it all. You may need to meet some of your needs elsewhere.
Recognize that you aren’t joining for life, unless that is what you want.
Take it slowly and make the choice at your own pace. Then continue to be involved in the ways and timing that feels right for you.
Please contact me if you have questions about this process you’d like to discuss.
Many blessings to you on your journey of discovery!
Rev. Ruth Schweitzer-Mordecai, MFT