What is a healthy religious community?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,289
    Rev. Rock Schuler defines a healthy religious community.

    Rock Schuler

    Rock Schuler is the Rector (Pastor) of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olney, Maryland. He has served as an ordained minister of the Episcopal Church since 1990 after studying for the priesthood at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He was awarded a Doctorate of Ministry in Congregational Development in 2002. In the course of his ministry, Rock has served on an Indian Reservation, in rural Wyoming, and in major suburban areas. In addition to pastoring the people of his congregation, he has been involved in community service projects to serve the homeless, refugees, and the addicted. He’s also been involved in international outreach projects in Latin America and Africa. Rock’s spiritual roots lie in the early Christian Church, in Native American spirituality, in the liturgical worship and traditions of the Episcopal Church, and most especially in his own personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ. He appreciates the mystery and mysticism of the Christian faith while offering thanks for a lifelong and joyous love of Jesus. Rock, born in 1965, is from Wyoming, where he served his first two churches. He is married to Jennifer, whom he met while serving a parish outside of Philadelphia, and has two beautiful daughters, Leia and Rebecca. Rock is into science fiction and fantasy (especially "Battlestar Galactica," "Star Trek," "Lost," and "The Lord of the Rings"), movies, reading, kayaking/canoeing, hiking, and running.

    Speaker: What is a healthy religious community?

    Rock Schuler: A healthy religious community is one that is going to affirm, who you are as a human being. It is going to uphold your human dignity. It is going to be concerned that you have the opportunity to fully be every thing that God envisioned for you, when God first formed you in your mother s womb. God vision for you and that vision becoming a reality is the primary concern of a healthy religious community. So, there are going to be some basic teachings, like in Judaism, where we are made in God s image or in Christianity, where we learn that God became a human being, so that God s dream for all of us might be perfectly fulfilled. These are actions of God on our behalf and so there are teachings in the religious community that show us, how God is working on our behalf to bring us to the fullness of our being. A healthy religious community is going to be one that respects, who we are; that respects boundaries and yet has permeable boundaries at the same time. For instance, a healthy religious community is going to have boundaries implies to protect children from abuse. It is also going to have permeable boundaries, so that people are not forced and constrained by legalistic requirements to follow the rule of the community, the letter of the law. In other words, a healthy religious community is going to offer guidance and protection in the spiritual life. It is not going to act as a dictator in spiritual life. That is what I mean by boundaries that are permeable. So, on the whole, a healthy religious community looks to advance uphold and noble, who we are as human beings. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with the examples of unhealthy religious communities. We find them throughout history and they are usually the result of a cult personality or cultic type magnetism. In other words, there is often an individual at the center of an unhealthy religious community, who exercises great spiritual sway, even power over followers. The boundaries of an unhealthy religious community are rigid, they are not permeable; they are narrow, they are very confined. There is an expectation that people will remain within that confined narrow boundary. They are not permitted to go beyond it.

    Usually the leader of an unhealthy religious community will not submit him or herself to the discipline of others, of superiors to the guidance of tradition or history. They set themselves up as a law unto themselves. And how unhealthy religious communities are more concerned to advance the well being of the leader or the leaders then they are to a noble, the dignity and worth of the followers.