EL2010 preacher talks about 'spiritual but not religious'

January 20, 2010

This year’s preacher at the Earl Lectures closing worship, Rev. Dr. Donna E. Allen, is the founder and pastor of New Revelation Community Church in Oakland and has been a popular visiting instructor at PSR, teaching courses on preaching, and sexuality and gender. We asked her to share some of her reflections on what it means to be “spiritual but not religious” as she prepares her sermon for the close of what will surely be a dynamic, challenging, and enlightening Earl Lectures series.

“We live in a time where ‘religion’ has a bad reputation—it suffers from bad publicity and some of it well earned. ‘Spiritual’ on the other hand has some historical challenges, but for the most part it has a clean image and that alone makes it more approachable, more accessible, if you will.

“Now couple this idea with the entrenched institutional barriers that are a hallmark of religion—everything from membership as a status of participation/belonging and doctrinal and personal commitments—compared to the seemingly free spirit of no requirements, where all are welcome. It’s an open admission policy for spirituality.

“There is a way in which spiritual affords access, inclusive access, the very opposite of much of religion, which specializes in establishing admission standards and membership expectations/practices, or rituals for members only.

“In preparation for my sermon, I’m reflecting on ‘spiritual but not religious’ as the idea of a radically inclusive access to the divine.”

The closing worship to the Earl Lectures 2010 is titled "And Your Soul Will Dance." Led by Greg Murai, Bay Area jazz composer and artist, and Donna E. Allen, this service will connect the rhythms, harmonies, and improvisation of jazz music with the human longing for the holy. The worship will be held Thursday, January 28, from 10:30-11:15 am in the sanctuary of the Ecumenical Center of Berkeley at 2401 LeConte Ave. The worship is free and open to the public--no registration required. For more information on the 2010 Earl Lectures, go to the Earl Lectures Web site, or call the Earl Lectures office at 510/849-8218 or 800/999-0528, ext. 8218.