The inconsistencies between our planetary food production and consumption are staggering. With millions still struggling to find their daily bread we can’t seem to connect the people who need food to the food they need. Instead we often throw out vast quantities, stock-pile, grow it recklessly and let pricing systems protect us to the disadvantage of those without power.
Are there parallel inconsistencies with the connection of spiritually hungry people to sources of nourishment that enable human flourishing? How people’s deeper spiritual needs are expressed and met is not simply a ‘religious’ question, but as we see in contemporary society, finds outlets in a whole range of thinking and practices ranging from complementary medicines to meditation practices to explorations of how to live more communally. This spiritual hunger is not just outside our church communities, but within it. Surveys indicate that many who leave via the back door of our churches are doing so because their hungers have remained unsatisfied.
Even when we belong to Christian faith communities, what is the oft- heard complaint about people being spiritually hungry telling us? This cry of the heart might not show itself plainly. For some, particularly those who look to their local church for their spiritual needs, this shows itself in feeling more emptiness leaving church than when going in. For some it is a gnawing sense of disconnection with what is going on in the worship that once was so refreshing. For others it is a realisation that sources outside of the church community feed the spirit more fully.
Hunger is a good thing and a gift of God. As our spiritual hungers evolve on our life journey, finding sources of appropriate nourishment can become complex, especially if our churches have a kind of one size fits all approach. How we manage our hunger and help one another to articulate its reality and to satisfy its longing is a primary task of Christian communities. This task is increasingly complex in contemporary society-it takes time and wisdom, and can be overlooked as less important than the many practical tasks churches must address. The challenge for many is to find the sources of nourishment that feed the soul. Thank God for the diversity and richness he gives us to share in and meet such needs.
The theme of ‘Food for the journey’ connects several events within our church’s diocesan year, and encourages us to listen attentively to our hungers. We can openly assess our levels of health and the effects of potential malnourishment. The spirituality festival helped us to share in the vast giftedness of people who can assist us to find nourishment. There was the delight of discovery as people were exposed to new ways of prayer. The Lent course invites us to share in the lakeside meal in which the conversations between Jesus and his disciples sets motion a breath- taking outpouring of love. Christ is our source of ultimate nourishment – our food for the journey – without which we cannot flourish.
On Easter Monday the journeys of pilgrimage from the different corners of the diocese converge in an act of worship and fellowship within the Cathedral connecting us together. The Gathering with its ‘Food for the journey’ theme will take us to delightful angles on how food is both physical, and spiritual nourishment. The feasting continues over the Nine Days of Prayer, our novena, when we wait in expectation for the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to renew and reshape us for service! We will be given many opportunities to feast as a diocesan community as we seek to find spiritual fullness together in Christ!