RECENTLY I attended an Anabaptist Theology Forum held in Birmingham, as part of my PhD journey. You’re probably wondering, who on Earth are the Anabaptists?
Well, during the Reformation, when the principle ‘Cusis regio, euis regio’ (‘The religion of the rulers must be the religion of their subjects’) held precedence, the Anabaptists made a faith decision that directly confronted and challenged the social religious, and even political status quo. These courageous radicals had the courage to take a stand and call out the abuses within the church. However, this resulted in them finding themselves ‘outside’ of the institution, and even labelled as the ‘unwanted and unloved stepchild’ of the church.
We raised £1500 for Women’s Aid with the ‘Bizarre Feminist’ T-Shirts…— Rev Karen Sethuraman (@KarenSethuraman) September 15, 2022
👇 I’m thinking ‘Reverend woman’ for the next tee! 😂
We could make so much money for charity turning what was intended as an insult towards me… into something good. 👍 https://t.co/3Ge8DQ7dL7
In brief, sixteenth century Anabaptism highlights the story of spiritual refugees, who not only found themselves outside of the institution, but who were also determined to live-out their deeply-held and shared convictions and common practices. This resulted in the setting up of alternative faith communities.
I have always been drawn to stories of people who feel they don’t fit, especially in the church (for whatever reason). Perhaps, this is because it is similar to my own story. But what I have come to discover over the course of my ministry life is that many people who don’t attend church are still deeply spiritual. What I love about the Anabaptists is that they sought ways to create community, and their deep sense of togetherness to help each other on their faith journey.
Friends, if you feel you are a spiritual refugee, please know that just because you feel you ‘don’t fit’ in church doesn’t mean you are any less spiritual than those who do. I’ve been there. It’s what I call my wilderness years and it was a key part of my journey of unlearning a lot of toxic theology that I grew up in.
God is close in the seasons when we feel like we are wandering. There are lots of books, podcasts and other faith communities that exist outside of the institution that can help. So don’t lose hope; wherever you are on your faith journey – God is with and for you.