Before joining a Spiritualist Church you may have questions. Not all Spiritualist Churches are equal. In fact there are some that are on the brink of total chaos. You may just not see it at a single visit or even after a few. Too often, it is after you have joined that the cracks become evident. People are really good at hiding the cracks in a church. Sadly, I have seen it so many times.
Spiritualism draws broken people. This is a good thing when you are broken. It is a place of wonder, of healing and love. A place to do the inner work to connect you with the Divine. Heal the wounds and break the bonds of generational hurt. It is even better if you do the work to heal the wounds that broke you in the first place.
It becomes a problem when broken people lead a church. They are pushed into leadership too soon; before they are ready. Some by necessity, others by ego. All too often they bring their negativity and lack of spiritual direction which creates problems. As a result, many of the churches have fractured into smaller groups. Where there was a group inclusive to all, there are instead several exclusive and unwelcoming groups. Spiritual jealousy is a real thing; it causes fractions where once harmony reined. It creates spiritual bullies and really uncomfortable situations.
Questions to ask
I have to believe the founders of modern spiritualism didn’t have this in mind. In fact, deep down in my heart it has been hard to stand on the sidelines for so long as I watch it happen over and over again. I love what Spiritualism stands for and have come to the understanding that I am meant to be a bridge and share freely. By not being a member of one, I am welcome at all.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and some red flags that you should be aware of before joining a Spiritual (or any) Church.
Why do you want me to join?
This one seems odd, but it isn’t. If you are met with “we need people to volunteer”, “we are tired”, you may want to do some digging before joining. One church wanted me to join because they needed a webmaster and they knew I had a successful blog. Another knew my ability to organize events and yet another without a Spiritual leader wanted me to take over those duties from hours away.
How is the organization living out the Spiritual Principles?
This is an interesting question to ask before joining. I can tell you first hand that most churches struggle with them. Watch how people treat others, how people interact with one another. See how the golden rule is enacted. Give the members ample time to show their true colors.
How many members do you have?
Spiritual Churches have a habit of splintering into smaller groups. A healthy church will have a growing congregation. Ask questions about the congregation and its growth (or decline) in members. There will be natural attrition, but you will see a negative trend easily. Most often it is because of the leadership or the lack of it. Do you restrict your membership? Do you put too many boundaries between those that want to join and the members?
So you want to join, you feel good about the people and sacred space, the next questions should be about the health of the church.
What are the by-laws?
Read the by-laws. Understand them. Can you live with their requirements? Too often people just join without understanding what they are joining. What are their rules for who is on the board? What is the mission statement? Are they living up to that? Do they have safeguards in place when someone breaks the by-laws?
May I see the financials? Meeting Minutes?
You may be able to review them when you are considering joining. There are all sorts of clues if the Church is healthy or not. Look at their spending, look at what their focus is on and decide for yourself. Board Meeting Minutes can tell you a lot, so does the lack of a written record. Yes, you are allowed to see financials. If you are refused that is a red flag.
What is the process to become a member?
Most Spiritualist Churches require that you attend a basic class before joining. They will wait for you to ask to join. A red flag is that members want you to join right away, most likely after attending one or two services. Benefits from joining often mean you receive discounts for attending classes and events. That should not be the only reason to join.
Who is on the board? How long have they been on the board?
Board membership is always interesting. Sometimes you see whole families on the board. Other times you see the same people on the board for many years. Other times you see a trend of people leaving the board prior to their term end. These are some red flags to watch out for. Again, the meeting minutes are wealth of knowledge.
How are the pastoral needs being taken care of by the church?
Is there a Pastor? Or is it run by committee? What are the services like, what classes do they offer? How are they serving the greater needs of the community? Do they have a charter they follow? Are the spiritual needs separated from the financial needs of the church? Is there clear steps or certification to serve?
Is the Church part of a larger organization?
What organization does the church belong to? What is the health of that organization? How much control do they have over the local church?
Ask these questions and make sure you resonate with the answers. Take quiet time to contemplate your membership. Trust Spirit when you have an uneasy feeling. Because there is a reason for that feeling.
For now, I help further the mission of Spiritualism by supporting a variety of churches, camps and associations.