By Koen Jacobs
October 31, 2018
Seemingly it is important for people to know why the OCPS is a “church”, why I decided to use this word to describe the nature of the OCPS as a community and organization.
There are two reasons that led to this conclusion and why I am still convinced that I made the right choice.
Before you read what those reasons are I would like to provide the correct context in which this came about.
I was born in Belgium, still largely a catholic country even though more and more people, understandably, turn their backs towards “the church”. Had I been born in Israel it may have very well been “temple”, or “mosque” had I been born in Morocco for instance.
I’ve seen many churches as I grew up, in Belgium and abroad – especially in France and the Netherlands. It is normal and natural for people to use words and concepts that they can relate to, that they know, that are part of their reality.
Before I decided to let the OCPS be “a church”, and even today just before I wrote this statement and explanation down, I researched the origin of the word church.
Along the way, through the millennia, people have been mixing words and interpretations all the time, both deliberately and ignorantly, which eventually puts us in today’s reality where ‘church‘ means both “assembly” (from the Greek ‘ekklesia‘) and “house of [the] lord [or master]” (from the Greek ‘kyriakon‘). For instance, when you translate the French word “église” into English you will get “church”, even though historians are still debating about whether or not this is actually correct, historically. The fact is that we, and I, can not change this anymore. People are using this word in the way they do. Language evolves, be it either by design or naturally.
This brings me to the first reason.
1. Aversion and Purpose
As I grew up and got older and older I got to dislike “the church”, the catholic church in this context, more and more, to the point where I questioned the actual purpose and reason of its and other churches their existence.
What I saw what was happening inside the churches, the buildings, was not something that I ever again wanted to be associated with, after having been baptized and having been sent to catholic elementary and high schools.
Before this aversion fully developed I had always assumed that churches were places where people try (try) to find themselves, spiritually, whatever the setting may be inside of the building. Some people prefer figurines, others prefer rugs and empty spaces. After all, spirituality is different for all of us.
As time went by and I got to understand what churches in general were doing, and what they were not doing, I realized that most people will not and cannot ever find themselves, spiritually, in the kind of churches that I knew of. Both as religious buildings and religious communities. Still, to this very day, am I searching for the ways that those churches offer anything at all that enables people who are part of them to travel interesting and, especially, truly enlightening spiritual paths. I am still searching for what exactly it is that other churches are offering that would eventually lead their followers to be spiritually aware individuals instead of units in religious cults where the word “truth” has been replaced with “god”, reducing every rebellious debate to the respective doctrine’s laws. Implying that there is only one truth in life, even though hundreds of millions of people around the world have more questions than there will likely ever be answers.
Just like the word “god”, so is the word “church” loaded. People have been attributing all sorts of things to both while completely having forgotten or being ignorant about what it all is supposed to mean or represent. Far beyond the dictates, absurd extremism and the deliberate dumbing down.
Additionally, and equally worrying, today most people still associate the word “church” with catholicism, even though the word’s origin is far older than the Catholic Church and even though many congregations are fighting hard to get rid of this odd reality in today’s information age.
Through the ages the Catholic Church managed to literally monopolize the word “church”, especially in colloquial language, although there certainly will be groups of people who strongly disagree with this. Regardless, when you say “church” in Belgium, for example, everyone will immediately associate that word with catholicism and, thus, the Catholic Church.
I will now state why exactly it is that I am convinced that “church” is the correct word for the OCPS and the missions that I have given myself.
First, through the Open Church for Philosophy and Spirituality, OCPS, I want to make people realize what “a church”, any church, is supposed to be about. What it is not about today in most of them and what it is about in my views and at the OCPS. The contrast is beyond strong.
When I say “church”, people immediately know in what context they are going to have to think. When I say “community” instead of church, as it has been suggested, all we are going to be is a community. Not that there is something wrong with that, at all.
However, there has to exist the impression that I am, and that we are, on a very serious mission. That we are very dedicated – and there has to exist a certain authority. Not necessarily towards the public but especially towards those institutions that willingly ignore what spirituality is really about. That “church” is not about selling “the word of god”. Honestly, what does that even mean?
“Church” lends that authority, and, interestingly, mostly in the views of those folks who have never questioned the religious paradigms that confine them to the by their religious leaders accepted reality.
In the eyes of omnists on the other hand, who know how to relativize also the word “church”, church at the OCPS means exactly what I believe it is supposed to mean and represent. That is clearly explained on the OCPS website and that is why people are drawn to the Open Church for Philosophy and Spirituality – because we are so very different and because we dare to say what the millions of others only think.
Second, we have to get rid of this monopoly. It is wrong, it is unjustifiable. It’s time is up.
We have to move on to a society where church means a place or community where you can try (try) to find yourself, spiritually. A place where spiritual paths cross, run parallel but also where paths split, as people develop a higher sense of spirituality and realize that they will have to find their own way, purpose and future on their own.
Before you click away from this website I would like to invite you to go through these writings and statements as well. They provide further context and insight.