Desire as the motor of spirituality

On March 18, the Women’s Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches met in Berne on the topic of “For Ourselves and for the World: Spirituality for Tomorrow.”

Spirituality is a buzzword in our time. Offers related to spiritual practices flourish inside the church and out. Most of these offers are taken up by women. What do women look for, and what do they find, when they walk a spiritual path?

“For Ourselves and for the World: Spirituality for Tomorrow” – this was the title of the Spring Women’s Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches. On March 18, 52 delegates and guests from the FSPC member churches congregated in Berne to discuss this topic.

“I see a vast market of spirituality that promises a lot of things to a lot of people. I have considerable doubts that this market will manage to keep its promises.” With this statement Peter Schmid, Vice President of the FSPC Council, opened his introductory remarks to the conference. Schmid added that the “ability to make educated distinctions” is a key to enlightenment, but this key is not readily at hand – it must be found first.

Brigitte Becker from the office for Spirituality and Lifestyle of the Reformed Church of the Canton of Zurich gave an introduction to the concept. Becker stated that spirituality is “close to our experience.” It is “something that is radically entwined with what we are looking for, what experiences we seek to make.” The pastor took care to distinguish the concept of spirituality from piety and religiousness: “People who are spiritual are not necessarily religious.”

“Desire is the motor that drives the quest for spirituality,” Becker added. According to Paul Zulehner, a Catholic sociologist of religion from Austria, this quest occurs in four areas. People are looking for “their own self, for interconnectedness, for holistic healing and for an ethics of all-encompassing love.”

These “fundamental desires” can be the beginning of a spiritual movement. Becker: “Something we share with many other people, inside the church and out.” He added that the main characteristic of Christian spirituality is to “endure the ambiguity of the search and the fact that we have to stay in the ‘preliminary’ world.”

These talks were followed by various workshops dealing with spirituality as a “place of power and respite” in contrast to everyday life. According to the participants, spirituality is more than a niche for compensating stress and being overwhelmed. The workshops presented spiritual practices to sharpen awareness for both inner and outer reality and to strengthen mindfulness and responsibility, thereby combining “self-care and world-care.”

The next Women’s Conference will take place October 28, 2013, in Berne, in combination with the Diaconal Conference.