becoming a member
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WHY BECOME A MEMBER?
Becoming a member of our church unifies us, officially and energetically and supports and encourages us to keep doing our work. It also satisfies our legal requirements that state that we must have a congregation. Keep in mind that you may use a meaningful spiritual name in order to join our church. No need to use your legal name unless you want to. *The identity of congregants of all churches in general in the USA are protected under federal anti-persecution laws.
There is no donation required to become a member, but your gracious and generous donations cover our operating costs, build a foundation for a lasting future and bring the work and the message to those who need to receive it.
Find below a lovely piece from our Executive Director, Jason Bushman, who has tirelessly worked to help us become a Church for over a year now, with no remuneration expected. I salute and honor him, and ask that you read his heartfelt words. Gracias!
Why A Church?
Since the incorporation of Gracia Divina Church, in May of 2016, and even before that, I've had a lot of people ask me, "Why form a church?" Honestly, I've asked myself the same question in the last year - because, well, if it's not completely obvious, putting all the paperwork together to be legally recognized as a church is a long and tedious process. Not to mention the fact that, historically speaking, not all churches have ultimately been forces for good in this world. So... why a church?
Our Senior Minister Marie Luna has been informally meeting with groups for almost two decades now - both in her current capacity as facilitator and also as organizer/assistant to her mentor, Maria Cristina. The tireless work that both these women do has been a literal lifesaver to some, and a spiritual balm to many others. All their work was expressly for the betterment of the planet, with no expectation of remuneration beyond costs, and quite often they lost money on their circles.
Years were spent balancing this work with other jobs that actually paid the bills, and when emergencies came along they went into debt so they could protect their own health and the health of their families. The first and foremost reason I'm committed to establishing this church is so that my friend, Marie - someone who has shined a light when times were most dark - can have a stable and reliable income in exchange for all the good she does in the world. I look forward to the moment when my donations to this very noble cause are tax-deductible, just as when I donate to any other religious or charitable organization.
Next, and of equal importance, is the protection of our cherished spiritual practice. Let's face it: not everyone understands what we do. When we're brave enough to discuss our services with friends or family - not necessarily recommended - they often don't get it, because certain elements of our work don't look like the Judeo-Christian model in which most of us were raised. (Other parts look exactly like that model - but that's another story.) What we want is legal protection for our chosen manner of prayer.
The United States of America holds Freedom of Religion, and the Separation of Church and State, as sacrosanct. This practice doesn't contradict my Christian upbringing, nor my Buddhist meditation practice; it's complimentary to my yoga path, and to my studies of non-violent communication. Not only do we, as pilgrims on this path, deserve First Amendment protection; we deserve respect for our spiritual commitment, just like our mothers and fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers have had before us.
This practice isn't for everyone, and the last thing we want to do is proselytize. But for some folks, like me and many of my loved ones, there is no other form of spiritual devotion and community which so efficiently gets us to the heart of our empathy and introspection, our love and our humility. This practice helps us to be more kind to one another, to ourselves, and to the planet. It's become a cliché that sitting in a single service is akin to years of psychotherapy - but there's some real truth to it!
Some people coming to this practice have such an intense experience on their first night, they don't feel they ever need to do it again. And that's okay: I know for such folks that single service will reverberate the rest of their lives, if only in the subtle realms. For others, like myself, the enormity of the first few years of experience settles into a sweet - and slightly more subdued - lifetime of devotion. We want to practice on a more regular schedule. For the more experienced practitioner, we come to work on things going on in our own hearts and minds, but just as importantly we come to hold space for others.
We come to pray for those near and dear to us outside the circle. We come to ask Spirit for planetary healing and well-being. And this isn't a completely selfless act either - because providing support for our fellow sangha members benefits all parties, and creates a stronger base from which we can all grow and flourish.
That's what churches do, and that's what Marie Luna and her congregation have been doing for years. Simply turning on the radio or opening a web browser, we're reminded of the constant cruelty and desperation everywhere around us. It sometimes feels like it's getting worse, too, like our species is edging ever closer to the precipice of self-extinction.
Since the beginning of recorded time - and probably long before that - mysticism, spirituality, and even formal religion have offered an antidote to suffering. Cultivating our inner lives benefits our own state of mind, of course, but also the lives and experiences of those all around us. Some might even say it soothes the karmic scarring of generations past and future. Perhaps, through the efforts we make to sit through these ceremonies and commune in this way, we can contribute to the critical mass of awakening which will elevate our planetary consciousness to the point we can stop hurting one another. And if it's too late, well, I want to go out singing.
This is my personal mission in forming this church, and I must remember it every day - especially when the going gets tough. Gracia Divina.
Gracia Divina Church