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The three "Bs" of religion

By Rev. Susan Eagle

It was with great personal interest that I recently read a commentary in the Toronto Star by Dow Marmur, former senior rabbi at Holy Blossom Synagogue in Toronto, on what it is that still draws people to churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.

I had the pleasure of working with Dow for several years as part of an interfaith justice coalition and always found him to be insightful. As a spiritual leader, he was always progressive, thoughtful and collegial. In the Star article Marmur pondered the three “B’s” of religious attraction – believing, behaving, and belonging. Interestingly, a similar discussion was held recently at our Grace Tuesday night progressive Christianity study group.

In his thoughtful analysis, Marmur concluded, “in our time belonging more than believing or behaving motivates membership” in a religious community. “The way beliefs and behaviour are articulated is secondary to the need to be recognized and appreciated,” he said. “Traditionally clergy would tell their flock what to believe and how to behave.”

His comments resonate with me and my experience of ministry in the United Church of Canada.

Gone are the days when clergy could or should tell people what to believe or how to think. Our role today is to encourage and nurture people on a spiritual journey, to invite self-reflection and learning and to help build spiritual community.

If Marmur is correct about the importance of belonging, and I think he is, then Grace is certainly an example of ways in which diversity of believing and behaving can come together in the unity of belonging.

We have a broad spectrum of beliefs about the nature of God, the Bible and the ministry of Jesus.

We invite people to explore their faith and the ways in which that affects personal as well as collective behaviour. And through it all, our sense of belonging is central to that spiritual growth.

We are about to begin the days of Advent, a special and sacred time in our Christian calendar. While we get caught up in all the busyness of Christmas preparations, it is also a time for us as a church family to step beyond our personal needs and agendas and celebrate our belonging to the Grace community.

There are opportunities to give a little extra for others in need and our church family. There will be special services and seasonal music. There will be a Blue Christmas service and a Peace Garden labyrinth for those who struggle at Christmas or need time for quiet reflection.

Do you know someone who needs to be included in our community? Invite them. Doctrine doesn’t make a good church. But caring and sharing does.

Glimpse of Grace

We’re a friendly, welcoming, inclusive church. We don't tell you what to think or believe. We don't do guilt. We live the questions with open minds and open hearts. We invite you to join us if you’re on a spiritual journey — or looking for community.