Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Doctrine

The Community of Francis and Clare, Lothlorien House is a place where people come together to transcend dogma and experience the heart of religious life through sacrament and spiritual practices.

The creation-centered tradition passed down to us from Saints Francis and Clare, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, and in modern times by Matthew Fox, emphasizing original blessing and the goodness of God's creation, is inherently sacramental in nature.

The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer defines sacrament as:  "The outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace."

The sacraments, such as the bread and wine of Communion and the water of baptism, are more than mere symbols.  Rather, these Divine gifts allow us to tangibly receive spiritual grace in and through the physical creation.  When we participate in the sacraments, and lift our voices in thanks and praise, we become bodily vessels of grace in the world.  Likewise, practices such as  yoga, meditation, dance, chanting and contemplative prayer can be thought of as "sacramental" in that we use our body and breath as a vehicle for spiritual realization and expression.

Most churches talk about God.  At CFC Lothlorien we practice the Presence of "God-at-home-with-us," Immanuel.

Our non-denominational Liturgy encourages a shared experience of the Divine free from concerns about doctrinal divisions. We teach spiritual practices to enable everyone to connect with the sacred in their own heart and home as a part of daily life, in the context of their own personal religious tradition.

Read more about The Community of Francis and Clare from our founder, Father Scott Baldwin of All Saints Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California.

Our particular mission here at Lothlorien House is to provide instruction in classical hatha yoga as whole-body prayer:

"Hatha yoga is intimacy with all ordinary conditions, which spontaneously reveals and enables us to feel the source of all conditions.  No matter what language of faith and devotion is used to express the beautiful ideals of “source" or “God” or “absolute reality” hatha yoga is the universal means of them all."  Mark Whitwell, Heart of Yoga

You may ask, what is our doctrine?  The simplest answer would be, "We don't have one."  Because our members come from many different religious traditions, doctrinal opinions will vary widely depending upon whom you ask.  We do not require belief in certain doctrines as a prerequisite for participation in our Liturgy, sacraments and practices.  Now, obviously a church would seem to presuppose, at the very least, a belief in God.  But Who or What is God?  And who is Jesus Christ?

If you ask Sister Jamie, as an Episcopalian and a yogini, she will tell you, "God is Love, the Love that holds the universe together.  Jesus is the embodiment of that Love - and so are we."  

That is the informal answer.  If you want a more "technical" answer she will direct you to the catechisms of the Church, or the writings of the theologians, or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  It is useful to study the classical writings of people who have addressed this question at great length and in considerable detail throughout history.  But, ultimately it is a deeply personal question that everyone must answer for him or her self.

You have probably heard the popular statement, "It's not about religion, it's about relationship."  We would agree with that.  Religion is a man-made construct.  God is not limited by our human understanding, but can be known through Love.

Moreover, we would suggest that direct experience trumps dogma.  If you know God, as opposed to merely knowing about God, there is no need to cling to limiting doctrines.  Although it can be intellectually entertaining to argue about abstract theological concepts which by their very nature can neither be proven nor disproven, such argumentation is not essential or even desirable in our spiritual life.  Rather, we are simply called to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said: 

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness...  Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion." 

It is easier to describe what is not our doctrine:  

We do not believe that the Bible is a science text, or that it was literally dictated word for word by God, or that scripture can be properly understood outside of the historical and sociocultural context in which it was written.  

We do not believe that God created people for eternal torment, or sends people to hell for believing the wrong doctrines, or belonging to the wrong religion, or having the misfortune to be born in a time or place where they did not hear about Jesus.  

We do not believe that any particular religion, or nation, or political party owns God.

We uphold the First Amendment: freedom of religion, freedom from religion, and the separation of church and state.