Al Jazeera America had an opinion piece recently by Nick Street reporting on an experimental spiritual community called “Thom’s”. It’s named after the doubting disciple of Jesus, Thomas, and they came into being because they had absolutely had it with the traditional religions they grew up with. “The Episcopal Church is dying,” their leader told Street. The traditional Sunday service of hymns, prayers, sermons left them cold. This feeling of frustration is the kick-off point for my book, Seven Sacraments for Everyone. Millions of people are wondering why they are sitting on those pews like their parents did in another century, feeling unfulfilled spiritually, itching to do something more meaningful, but not knowing how to go about it, wanting their children to grow up with a moral compass that does not depend solely on the 10 Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed.
Thom’s are doing something about it: they go out and do laundry for the homeless in a monthly “Laundry Love” event that has spread to over 100 laundromats in Southern California. This group of Nones are actively seeking the Spiritual by connecting with those in need. This is what I call the Sacrament of the Group in my book. It can be found whenever we reach out to our communities and help those who need it in whatever way we can. The Universal Sacraments are all about finding spiritual fulfillment in human-to-human contact. Thom’s and other groups like them are demonstrating that it’s not that hard to do. It just takes some organization.
Street was responding to an article by David Brooks in the New York Times, who was making the point that the millions of Americans turning away from the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, are going to have a heck of a time coming up with rituals and ways of thinking to replace what organized religion has built over the centuries. Street tells Brooks to quit worrying, but he’s being a bit too flip. A lot of the Nones are drifting, and need some good ideas. Laundry Love is just one. My book has several more, as does the Charter for Compassion website. Let’s hope this sea change in the way our country sees its spiritual responsibility will continue to grow, and spread to the rest of the world.