Fri10242014

News

In celebration of 'organized compassion' and churches getting it right

Along the Spiritual Path

The various forms of media often have news items about organized crime. News items from churches are often about what someone has called "organized compassion."

A reminder of that came to me recently in the form of an e-mail message from Roy Hayter of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Mountain View. Over several years, Roy has brought together residents of Mountain View, not necessarily churchgoers, who have formed a group called Advocates for Affordable Housing.

Through their research into the complicated issues involved in providing housing for people with lower incomes, the group has become a respected and successful voice in dealings with city staff, planning commissioners and city council members.

Roy's e-mail asks other churches to follow the current practice at St. Timothy's of including a series of articles about Mountain View's housing situation (wording provided) in their weekly publication for worshippers.

St. Tim's is just one of several local churches that I think of as being wide awake. Among other things, such churches teach that the most effective outward service springs, as it did with Jesus, from a continuous inward exploration of our personal relationship with God.

An example of this kind of exploration came my way at the beginning of the Lenten season. A conversation with my friend Michole Nicholson of Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos led to her giving me a copy of their booklet of Lenten meditations: it became a valued companion. The booklet was compiled by members of the congregation, who had each chosen one of the Collects (a short formal prayer specific to each day) and written a brief meditation on it.

As I used the booklet day by day, I was struck by the variety of inner feelings that the prayers had elicited, and the openness and honesty of the writing. Two of the items I used as devotionals at meetings of my own church's Women's Fellowship; another became my guest column last month. Without an invitation to focus on a particular prayer, those feelings may never have been fully recognized and expressed.

The media are quick to jump on news of incidents where churches fall down on the job. My column today celebrates the many times when we get it right.

Ruth Polata is a resident of Mountain View and a longtime member of Foothills Congregational Church in Los Altos, part of the United Church of Christ.

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