This letter is directed to any reader who currently does not participate in a religious service offered by one of our local churches, perhaps because you cannot subscribe fully to their respective doctrines. I suggest that you check out our group of Living Hope Freethinkers, which meets each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on the second floor of the First Congregational Church building, 31-33 E. Fulton St.
After more than 50 years of participating in church worship services of two of the established Christian denominations, I had come to believe that worthwhile alternatives might exist. After noting the existence of his group in The Leader-Herald's Church Directory, I contacted the Rev. Mel Emurian to learn more about them. Now, after more than a year of participation, I can report that:
There is no doctrine to follow: each person is encouraged to form (or retain existing) individual opinions on all matters of religious belief.
The entire one-hour service is informal and very friendly; questions and discussions are encouraged.
The format of the service is flexible. Currently, it begins with an invitation for anyone to express any matter of personal concern, for possible consideration in the following short period of silence, which allows each individual to sit quietly and perhaps meditate or to pray about these concerns.
Next, two or three verses of a traditional hymn are sung, in appreciation of its beautiful music, more than for any doctrinal message.
Then follows the core of the service: a discussion and slide presentation by our leader on a previously announced subject, during which each attendee is free to introduce comments and/or questions. For the past year, the discussions have centered around the best-selling volume, "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years" by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Earlier core volumes included "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James, and we are about to embark on the study of "The Bible Unearthed," which explores the extent to which archaeological findings correlate with biblical texts.
If such a service appeals to you, why not check us out?
WILLIAM S. LAMBDIN