Imagine people coming to a place with one goal in mind, but experiencing so much more. Imagine a leader that encourages you and pushes you, and a community that cries and celebrates with you. Imagine moments of transcendence and being swept away by the music. No, this is not church, this is CrossFit and for some millennials and Gen Xers, it is filling some of the gaps that church traditionally filled.
In a fantastic piece by CBC’s Tapestry, Casper ter Kuile, ministry innovation fellow at Harvard Divinity School noted that he found liturgical elements in fitness programs that went well-beyond getting a fit body. “The instructor is not just saying, you know, bike faster or go slower. They’re really asking you reflective, meaning-making questions:
“What do you need to leave behind today?
What do you want to remember?
Who are you riding for?”
This is either a story you find inspiring or it makes you shutter. What brings me hope is that the human soul longs for communion and connection, and for transcendence. Attending my first ever Canucks game, I relished the sense of connection with the fans, all of us moving, cheering and weeping as one body as the game went on.
In both cases, to make these experiences more than just one-offs, we need to have a set of practices that open us to something greater than ourselves. We need to learn to let go of our own desires and to care about others as if they are precious to us. And we are going to need practices that push us to live this way because frankly, we get far more messages about self-preservation than we do about community-building and unconditional love.
For me, these new forms of communities that spring up in the secular business world are green shoots of hope, but they are the beginning, not end of something. They help people experience the idea of moving as one body and caring for each other. The next step though is going beyond the person to the transpersonal. Our soul longs for this and church or Soul Cycle class, it will not be contained by either of these forms. May it be so!