Put away from me your segregated worship services, conferences, workshops and annual gatherings. We need an ecclesiology that satisfies the soul’s hunger for deeper connection.

There is a growing spiritual weariness of divisiveness. The predictable strivings and infighting caused by race and its progeny, bigotry, capitalism, political partisanship, patriarchy and white supremacy is exhausting and completely misses the point of Jesus’s gospel: human being and belonging.

Consider this a church announcement. Wanted: Churches that prioritize an inward orientation and an internal freedom with societal ramifications while connecting us to our soulish longing to abide in the presence of God. Pollyanna visions that are overly optimistic or focus on heaven in “the sweet by and by” with no theological commitment to the justice needed here and now need not apply. Churches must submit to a background check and references are required.

Many believers are saved but not satisfied with church bulletins and programs printed on old wine skins. Increasingly, more Christians have no interest in Sunday morning attendance, which doubles as recruitment for committees rebranded as ministries to participate in the insular work of whitewashed tomb maintenance and institutional support.

Because if you sit in church long enough, then you will see that it is often a game of musical chairs, as the same participants move around on the program but are secretly waiting for the coveted seat of the pastor. Imagine the surprise of those who came to church to learn about and worship Jesus.

The psalmist says the soul has an appetite and craves the divine: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2, NRSV)

It is no longer on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. Coopted by the American empire, crushed by its political machinery, tongue-tied by tradition and under the surveilling eyes of its benefactors, the North American church’s leaders waste much of their time crafting a safe message to ensure continued employment. “The deep things of God” are put off another week (1 Corinthians 2:10).

“The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and women often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication, they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges and to kindle a hope that inspires,” Howard Thurman writes in Footprints of a Dream: The Story of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.

Thurman is a catechizer of the soul, for the deep things of the believing person, whether you aim to believe in yourself, your neighbor, your God or some combination of the sort. He asks the questions that unravel while linking you to something deeper, richer and truer.

He asks more questions that I don’t have answers to. I read them off to a friend who heaved and sighed with me.

“Wherever there appears in human history a personality whose story is available and whose reach extends far in all directions, the question of [the person’s] working paper is as crucial as is the significance of [their] life. We want to know what were the lines along which [they] decided to live [their] life? How did [they] relate [themselves] to the central issues of [their] time? What were the questions which [they] had to answer? Was [the person] under some necessity to give a universal character to [their] most private experience?” Thurman writes in Deep is the Hunger.

What am I supposed to say to this? Worse still, why do I feel like the North American church has not equipped me to respond adequately?

“For every [person], there is a necessity to establish as securely as possible the lines along which [they] proposes to live [their] life,” Thurman continues. Even with The Raceless Gospel Initiative as my “working paper,” those words still eat at me.

Thurman speaks the truth that we all know but fail to admit out of ignorance, willful or otherwise. Evaluating my appetite and all the far and wide offerings that too many religious and faith-based institutions provide, I confess that my soul is not satisfied. Deep is the hunger.

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