Step Away From the Labels

Good morning all

On Sunday as I was enjoying my morning coffee I read an article in the United church Observer by Rev. Nancy Steves about post-theistic communities. It was a great article and it got me thinking, not about post-theistic communities but about labels. It seems to me that we inside and outside the church are somewhat obsessed with labels. In the church we talk about traditional, conservative, evangelical, progressive, theistic or post-theistic, orthodox and I am sure there are some I am missing. In the political realm of course we have liberal or conservative or green or NDP which refer to the party that we might belong to or where we fit on the political spectrum. In society we have other labels like, gay, straight, transgendered, or queer and a few others referring to our sexuality. Or perhaps it is the label like Autistic or ADHD or Down Syndrome, things that label us according to our mental or physical diagnosis.

Now these labels are all fine and dandy except, in my experience, all they do is serve to confine individuals and communities to a box that really does not convey who or what they are. I remember when Chris and I were trying to create a website for our music. Originally we used the sentence “ Resources for Progressive Spirituality”. The more we lived with that the more we realized that it was not really who we were. It covered part of it but narrowed our resources to a very particular audience. Our experience told us that our music and liturgy has spoken to people from a variety of spiritual disciplines and theologies. So we changed it to “resources for an evolving spirituality”. Even that does not really do it justice

The other difficulty with labels is that there is such a variety of understandings attached to the words. When I hear the label “Christian” for example the image and understanding that comes to mind for me is directed by my experience and my tradition. I know this word to convey a certain set of beliefs and behaviours. However, someone who has been brought up in another tradition may see, hear and feel something totally different when they use the term “Christian”. In its simplest form it means someone who follows Jesus of Nazareth but that is where the simplicity ends. Who Jesus was and what he called his followers to be is interpreted using many lenses. If there are ten people in the room it is quite possible to have ten different understandings of what this means.

It seems to me that it really is not possible to distill a person, an organization or a group into one label. When we try to do that we are unable to see the depth and breadth, the diversity that goes into creating the whole. I am a minister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a friend and I am all of these things at once and separately. I am progressive, traditional, evangelical, liberal and, yes, sometimes conservative. Using one of these labels alone cannot describe who I am or what I believe.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could step away from the labels that we have created and encounter each person or group with open minds! Imagine what it would be like if we were able to really look into the eyes of another and take the time to really get to know them without preconceived ideas! I think, if we were truly able to do this we would enter into deeper and richer relationships and the world in which we live would be far better.

Blessings, Valerie

Reminders of the Week

Wednesday 7pm – The first gathering of people living with mental health issues. If you are walking a dark road; trying to deal with mental ill health know that you are not alone. Come and join together for a time of fellowship, creating connections, gathering resources and building supports.

Sunday 10:30 Worship followed by the Annual Meeting!
We will gather in the church hall following worship for a pot-luck lunch and the annual meeting. Please bring something to add to the table and all will be fed! If you are unable to bring something Just bring yourself. We know from experience that the loaves and fish always multiply!

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