Thursday, October 1, 2009
Excerpted from Life Beyond Religion- Fountain Street Church September 23, 2009 by Ian Lawton
My previous church was St. Matthew in the City, a downtown city church in Auckland, New Zealand. It was a beautiful and historic building, known as a center for radical activism. During the South African Rugby tour of New Zealand in 1981, St. Matthews became the base for organizing protests against the tour because of the racist apartheid policies in South Africa. The tour went ahead, but protestors stormed the playing field and dropped flour bombs from light airplanes. Fifteen years later, Nelson Mandela stood in the pulpit of St. Mathew in the City as a way of thanking the people of New Zealand for helping to end apartheid. The pulpit of St. Matthews became a symbol of freedom, equality and justice.
I never took the privilege of sharing a pulpit with Nelson Mandela lightly. As I climbed the stairs of the pulpit to deliver my sermons, Nelson was with me every step.
As I climb the stairs into another famous pulpit, Dr. Duncan Littlefair is also with me. Duncan filled this pulpit of Fountain Street Church with his life’s passion: rigorous self responsibility, honest inquiry, awesome wonder and a deep respect for life, nature and humanity. I’m humbled and grateful for the honor of standing in this prominent pulpit to share my life’s passion: deep and inspired spirituality freed from the limiting and otherworldly baggage of religion.
In 1999, Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave a speech (National Press Club October 6, 1999) where he reflected on the courage of those who had testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Many of them had been treated grievously. They had every right to be angry and seek revenge. Instead, they came and told their stories. Archbishop Tutu said in this speech that he had so much respect for their courage and humanity that he wanted to take off his shoes. It was as if, he said, “he was standing on holy ground.”
As a symbol of my respect for Duncan Littlefair, I remove my shoes. Tonight I am standing on holy ground. It’s not holy because it’s in a church. You could say it’s holy in spite of being in a church. It’s not holy because it is high and ornate. You could say it’s holy in spite of its height. It’s holy because he dedicated this space to speaking for those who had no voice within mainstream religion. These people have a right to feel angry and let down by religion. My passion is to offer a place for people to heal from the hurts of religion and move forward in a healthy manner.
I remove my shoes in honor of the growing number of people around the world who call themselves spiritual but not religious. You are my people. We share an incredible vision for universal love and healing in the world. It’s a new movement, still finding its voice. I intend
to play my part to ensure that this voice is heard, and what better place to launch this vision than on this holy ground, right here and right now.
SBNR.org stands on holy ground as it is dedicated to speaking to and for those who have no voice within organized religion and who prefer to find their spiritual path outside of mainstream religion. Watch this space for more excerpts from the historic Fountain Street Church talk and other SBNR resources.