Michael Gungor and I started The Liturgists because we were lonely. Sure, we talked a big game about creating beautiful, sacred art, and exploring how science and faith are complimentary lenses to view the world. More than anything, though, we were just lonely.
We were lonely because the Church is in the middle of a Reformation. It's been a few hundred years, so God knows it's past due anyway. The world is changing again. Science has pressed farther into the claims of theology than ever before. Culture (rightly) questions some of our most basic assumptions about what scripture teaches us and why it matters.
I see this as a good thing. The way church is done today works for hundreds of millions of people world wide, and I celebrate that. But, it's also true that hundreds of millions of people can't find a seat at this table because they can't read the Bible the way they used to, or because they're gay, or because they struggle to believe a good, loving God can be present among all the suffering and tragedy found here on Earth.
They are hungry. So were we. That's what The Liturgists is about–it's the work of the people. It was never meant to be a platform for Michael and I, but instead a table meant to welcome all, just as they are, to come and break the bread of Eucharist together. We want to help the spiritually homeless and frustrated find community and peace.
Too often, people find themselves marginalized by their peers when they start to really wrestle with their faith. Sadly, many people find themselves passively ostracized or even actively cast out when they can't accept the same answers they once did. But we believe that the Gospel is messy, and that the Gospels themselves describe a community that didn't have all the right answers, and didn't always make the right choices, but was united around a love of a particular person.
And so, we welcome all those people who want to follow the one who was called the Son of God. Even if they don't know why–and even if they aren't sure he ever existed at all.
We've done a lot to build a community like this. We've done events centered around liturgy. We've created liturgies people can get on the Internet and practice alone or in small groups. We host a podcast to foster these kinds of open, safe discussions. But we aren't done.
We're gathering together in Atlanta for an event called Belong. It's our first conference; a two-day discussion of faith and doubt, science and art, safe community and challenging ideas. Some familiar voices from our work will join us, and we've got some really compelling ideas to share.
But most exciting to me is you. The listeners of the podcast, the practitioners of our liturgies. I'm most excited about sitting in a room with 100 of you and learning about your journey and your story. I can't wait to see what happens when a room full of people realize that they are not alone.
Here's what some of you have said about why you are coming to Belong:
Tyler said, "I've been trying for a while to find a way to facilitate open, honest discussion about spirituality and God in some forum in my hometown, for artists/musicians, while also bringing Christians into a place where they don't feel like they have to use their gifts to to make sterile, uninspired work "for he church" or otherwise. It's hard to do, and hard to figure out the best shape for such a thing to take. I signed up because I think Belong can facilitate my brain in that process, and because I want to spend two days talking about the most interesting and wonderfully confusing things possible with people I consider to be tremendously inspiring."
Emily said, "I'm basically in the middle of a faith deconstruction and have found it an incredibly lonely experience - a truly important one but lonely for sure. I found the Liturgists near the beginning of this journey and Science Mike's podcast about the same time. I find the ideas and discussion to bring freedom and breathe life into me in ways I didn't think were possible. Just knowing there are people out there who grew up in evangelical fundamentalism and have figured out how to step somewhat away from that and still love Jesus deeply is incredibly inspiring. I want to meet this community of people that love these discussions - to participate, be part of it, and hopefully, give a little bit back to the people who have given so much to me."
Matt told us, "I am a worship pastor in Texas at a (ready for it??) Southern Baptist church (don't worry, I'm not THAT kind of baptist) and I love the people and am always seeking how to love them better through pointing them to God (via music, art, etc.) beyond the concepts and language they may have used to close themselves off to a God that transcends modernity. I look forward to great discussion with some of the most influential people in my life and ministry on how to do this well, contextually, authentically, and pastorally; as well as be encouraged to be a better artist/creator. I am so thankful this is a thing. Its refreshing that we can talk openly and grow together."
Thomas said, "I am the science department chair at a Christian high school in the Atlanta area and the intersection of faith and science is the most fascinating thing in the world to me. It is my mission in life, to help kids see God through the study of the natural world."
Jillian said, "The Liturgists podcast was a lifeline for me in a period of traumatic loss of faith. When I started to regain my faith, I found great comfort and encouragement in your blog at mikemchargue.com. I have a wonderful support system at home, but they have no framework to understand or respond to the questions I want to ask now. I am looking forward not only to exploring my own doubts and beliefs with people who can relate, but also to hearing questions I may not have thought of before."
I was moved to tears when we opened up registration and thousands of people flooded our system from all over the country. We didn't really know what to expect, and we certainly didn't know people would fly to Atlanta from all over the country to be a part of this. This won't be our last Belong–we're going to experiment with event size and ticket price to make room at the table for as many people as possible in the coming months.
But this is the first, and the first one is always special. And there's something about a crowd of 100 that is remarkably intimate. There are a few seats left for Belong, and we'd love for you to join us.