Replacing the rituals

By Sharon

Three things I missed about Christianity when I first left were church music, prayer, and church attendance. Much to my surprise, I have derived much satisfaction from building new routines and rituals into my life.

For the vocal benefit of prayer, I have substituted talking to myself or reading aloud to myself. For the meditative aspect of prayer, I have substituted gazing out onto some horizon or body of water in nature. For the intentional aspect of prayer, I throw coins in the fountain in the park, or just sit by it pensively in wintertime when the water doesn’t run.

I didn’t think church music would be easy to replace, because the experience of it was one that would stay with me for hours after each service as I bounced around my house singing the familiar church songs that rang in my head. But now that I have the freedom to explore other music genres besides gospel, my everyday life – not just Sunday’s – is permeated with music. I have enjoyed singing since I was little, and I always had a talent for singing, but now the scope of that enjoyment is much bigger, and the scope of that talent more versatile. The more I sing, the more I realize that church music lifted me because of the physiological effect of music on the body, not because of any special inspiration from "on High."

For the Sabbath rest benefit of church attendance (setting aside one day of the week for rest), I simply make sure I set one day aside (not necessarily Sunday) to conduct myself in a more laid-back fashion than I do on the other six days. For the socialization aspect of church attendance, I simply make sure I build into my life ways of connecting with people - such as working out at the gym, hanging out with friends at the local women’s center, or chatting with people I see each day as I take public transit. For the worship aspect of church attendance, I have substituted the sanctuary of my body for the physical building – by paying attention to my physical needs on a more ongoing basis.

As a Christian, I was taught that my body was an appendage of myself. Nothing but a pesky nuisance when it broke down with disease. Nothing but a stumbling block for righteousness when appetites for food or sex emerged. And nothing but an inconvenience when unfitness kept me from reaching my full potential “in service for the Lord.” Now I know that my body is “me,” not just an appendage. It needs attention all the time, almost like an infant. It needs honoring, nurturing, and pampering. It needs me to honor it by noticing when it’s sore, hungry, tense, or tired and by taking care of those needs. It needs me to nurture it by eating well, getting quality rest, and providing protection from the elements with suitable clothing and a cozy roof over my head. It needs me to pamper it by using it as a canvas for self expression by dressing exactly the way I choose - not according to the dictates of some church. It needs me to pamper it by giving it the rich experience of an occasional warm soak in a tub, or by affirming its worth by smiling at myself when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning – maybe not before the splash of water on my face but definitely after.

I love the new rituals and routines I’ve discovered through replacing prayer, church music, and church attendance, I don't miss Christianity anymore, and I love my new Post-Christian way of life.

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