Our monthly feature seeks to offer open-minded, clarifying, and meaningful responses to readers’ questions about spirituality. Send your questions to The Resident.
Q: How can we remain connected to our religion when we are stuck at home?
The Abrahamic faiths encourage the practice of religion in community. Jewish public worship, for example, requires the attendance of a minyan, that is (traditionally) 10 adult males. Certain denominations of Islam set a minimum of 40 attendees for Friday prayers. Love in community is foundational to every religion I can think of, and the practice of religion in community is a deep source of civilization itself. Humans respond badly to prolonged isolation, and the loss of our religious or spiritual community can be a particular hardship.
Any experienced monastic will tell you that the most difficult spiritual practices are those attempted alone. Many of us – myself included – are feeling bereft of community in the isolation that we are enduring at present. At the same time that we’re learning more about the technological resources that can help us stay in contact, we’re appreciating how dependent we are on touch and taste and smell to feel connected.
The very longing we feel for connection can shed light on our spiritual path. The music or prayers we learned in childhood, the stories we hold in common and tell and re-tell to one another, objects we have inherited from our parents or grandparents, the memories we associate with certain places or birds or flowers, even cooking recipes that we’ve learned from one another – any of these can evoke both the sense of loss and the feeling of comfort that summon us into the presence of the divine.
My counsel to the reader who is now missing their religious engagement is to prepare an altar or a meditation corner in your home and use it daily. Take time to move slowly and breathe deeply. Get sunshine and fresh air when possible, and appreciate its ultimate source. In words combined with some physical movement or gesture, express gratitude for the gifts of the past, and hope for the unfolding of the future. Cook something traditional to your faith or family. Then call a friend from your congregation, prayer group, or yoga studio and talk about things that make you laugh together. Be gentle with yourselves, dear ones. Slowly and day by day we’ll get through.
The Rev. Reid Hamilton, St Vincent’s Church