REV. PAT BAILEY: EVOLVING LANDSCAPES, DIALOGIC

Editor’s note: Rev. Pat Bailey, pastor of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church, takes a developmental and evolutionary view of faith, spirituality, and religious community. Join him for his weekly blog as he explores the ever-changing landscapes of perspectives and consciousness and discusses both the challenges and promise of trying to make meaning in our evolving social context. Rev. Bailey holds a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary, a Master of Theology in comparative religion from Emory University, and will receive his Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary this month.

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

At our Sunday services at Christ Church I do not preach from behind a pulpit. Instead I sit on a stool and simply speak with the congregation. I call it “barstool preaching,” and the tone that I intend to convey is not so much proclamation as conversation. I am not really trying to convince anyone of anything except that we attend together to the deeper movements of our spirits in response to the deeper mysteries of our existence.

Philip Clayton is a philosopher and theologian who has long been engaged in the conversation between science and religion. He does a remarkable job of identifying the deeper questions that move both disciplines beyond reductionism to open up a broader and richer dialogue. In fact, his methodology is often called a “dialogical” approach to truth.

From the religious perspective, Clayton is arguing for an attitude of “devout uncertainty.” This attitude involves a willingness to listen to the sciences and allow their findings to influence our thinking about God and existence. Our theological claims, then, take on the status of hypotheses through which we might gather more information about the true nature of the world. Such an approach requires open-ended reflection on the greater questions of life and the deeper currents of our spiritual traditions.

The Dalai Lama takes a similar approach to truth when he says that “one fundamental attitude shared by Buddhism and science is the commitment to keep searching for reality by empirical means and to be willing to discard accepted or long-held positions if our search finds that the truth is different. (See his “The Universe in a Single Atom; The Convergence of Science and Spirituality.”)

Science and religion represent two methods of inquiry that proceed along both similar and different paths. What distinguishes our spiritual traditions and inquiries from scientific exploration is that they encompass the subjective world of experience and values. Buddhism, Christianity, and other spiritual traditions and communities invite us to explore the complexity and richness of the human experience in ways that science alone cannot.

The evolution of thought and consciousness reveals our truth-making to be possible only in conversation with one another and with the long history of our species’s maturing self-awareness. That is why I preach from a bar stool. That is why Christ Church serves as a spiritual hostel to persons who hold a variety of views on God, spirituality, truth, and values. We are a community of accompaniment and conversation.

You can view videos of our church services and my sermons here.

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