Faces on Faith: Encountering God
I’ve borrowed a phrase from the newly installed priest at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, the Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss, in his latest Faces on Faith column. He suggested that we go to church to “encounter God.” So that leads us to wonder: What about church and encountering God?
Mark Swinney, a Christian Science teacher and practitioner, tells us in a recent article in the Christian Science Sentinel, “The idea of true church is found in God’s goodness and transforming love, and is all-inclusive, embracing everyone, everywhere.” Building on this idea, it was Carl Gustav Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist, who engraved the words “Summoned or not Summoned, God is here,” above his door in Switzerland.
The isolation and fear surrounding the pandemic has left people feeling deserted or abandoned by God, especially if one’s church is not meeting in person. Yet the thought that God is in the very center of our lives can be so uplifting and life-changing. A few years ago one of the featured speakers at the Shared Scholar Lecture, held annually at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, addressed this very concern. The Rev. Dr. John Newell, poet, peacemaker and scholar, asked his attendees numerous times in his address to turn to the person on their right or left and to repeat, “Wherever you turn, God is there.”
The discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in her textbook, “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures”: “God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present, or has power.” Church can take many forms. Jesus told us in Matthew: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you.” We all have numerous encounters every day. If they are defined by the power, intelligence and presence of God, we can respond to those around us with warmth, trust and good will. Then we truly are in the hallowed sanctuary of church, blessed and blessing every encounter.
June Sieber is affiliated with the Sanibel Christian Science Church.