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200 East Parkway North, Memphis, TN 38112 ⋅ Office: 901.454.1131

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On Being Rooted

Liturgically speaking we are in Common Time.  Common Time refers to the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, and then from Pentecost to Advent.  (Note here at FBC, we follow the Methodists and refer to the latter as Kingdomtide, but the point remains.)  The name is accurate in that these periods of the church calendar year are devoid of major religious observations. But I’ll never forget Glenn Hinson lecturing that all time is holy and that we should never see any time as “common time.”  Dr. Hinson suggested that we see this time through an agricultural lens, the equivalent of the fall or winter, when not much flashy is going on above ground, while all the while the essential work of sinking our roots deeper is being accomplished.

This idea of rootedness is certainly one that scripture affirms.  Think of the parable of the sower.  The objective is to sink deep roots, in good soil, and in so doing eventually bear much fruit.  Think of Psalm 1. “They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither, in all that they do, they prosper.”

Lillian Daniel, a Congregational Minister in Glen Elyn, Illinois, has written a book called When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Finding God in Surprising Places, Even Church.  In it she provides a spirited defense of the relevancy of church and spiritual community that has provoked considerable debate, some about her points in general, some about her sometimes biting sarcastic style.  I like the book, but can see the point of her critics.

Daniel likens those who claim to be “Spiritual But Not Religious” as those who pick beautiful bouquets of cut flowers—a rose from here, a lily from there, etc.   For a time they are indeed beautiful, sometimes splendidly so, but they don’t tend to last because they are not rooted.  In contrast she says that religious communities offer us a rootedness that comes from history and wisdom older than us and a community of people who care about us.

Now Daniel does not ignore the challenges of such a struggle.  She acknowledges that it’s hard to find meaning in a book that we did not write or choose, that its hard to find God in the company of people who are “just as annoying as we are.”  (I love that line.)  But, she concludes, that it is worth it.  Writing for herself and those like her, “Tired of decorating our lives with bouquets of our own choosing, we’re ready to go deeper, and even ready to put in the hard work it requires, because being part of a religious tradition takes work.”  

It’s this last point that sticks with me.   When we speak of rootedness, we think of an unconscious process of nature, something that just happens.  It’s a botanical metaphor, so it’s not perfect.  Maybe for us we could liken it to breathing or growing.  Not a lot of work involved there.  And I think that’s how we often times approach our spiritual rootedness.  At best it’s a passive endeavor on our part.  It’s not our job.  It’s the job of the dirt to be nourishing, and the job of theContinued on page 5other plants and/or weeds to get out of the way.  And to some degree, maybe all of that is true.

But the way in which Daniel and Hinson use it, in the end, we are responsible for our own rootedness.  There is work involved.  Sometimes hard work.  All of this begs some questions:  What does it mean to be rooted?  Do you feel rooted?  If so, why?  If not, why?  How long do you have to be a part of a community to feel that way?   What’s the upkeep?  How often do you have to be present to still feel rooted?  What work is involved?  More immediate to this season, I think Dr. Hinson would ask, “How will you make use of this Holy Time to become more rooted?”

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the October edition of Together.


Posted by Bridget Ellis at 1:49 PM
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