by Barbara Sherf
What do we do when your spiritual journey takes you beyond the bounds of the belief system in which you grew up? Former Presbyterian Pastor Patricia Pearce will delve into that and other questions at the next Center for Contemporary Mysticism program this Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church.
After completing seminary, Pearce served as a pastor in Presbyterian and UCC congregations for 17 years, a vocation she deeply loved and yet needed to leave. Serving most recently at Tabernacle United Church near the University of Pennsylvania campus, the death of a friend caused her to have dreams and synchronistic events that led her to leave her congregation after twelve and a half years.
“The congregation was progressive and fabulous and I loved the people there, but it had less to do with the people and more about the institutional system,” Pearce said from her Fairmount home. “I told them it was time for me to leave, that I had offered them what I had to offer and it was time for me to move into next chapter. It was a very sorrowful parting for all of us. But it was time.“
Raised in the Christian church, her path turned toward ministry while she was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Andes of Ecuador. After leaving her congregation, Pearce embarked on a career as an artist, teacher and writer of two books: “No One in I Land: A Parable of Awakening” and “Beyond Jesus: My Spiritual Odyssey.”
Of the latter, published last year, Pearce said the title simply spoke to her.
“The title just came to me. It’s not something I chose,” she said of the spiritual memoir. “When Christianity makes Jesus the point, it misses Jesus’ point. It was never about him and it is about us and everyone’s one-ness with the divine source and when a tradition makes him the whole focus it misses the whole message. The reaction has been more positive than I expected and actually quite enthusiastic. All in all it has deeply resonated with a lot of people who say you have written what I believed but couldn’t say it.”
As for her journey, Pearce said she knows she is not alone in struggling with issues of faith, particularly when one is brought up in a certain denomination.
“I feel strongly that we need to heed those inner promptings. The religious traditions established were done to assist us in our spiritual growth and I feel strongly that you aren’t betraying the tradition you are taking it to the next level and honoring the path it lead us on,” said Pearce, whose blogs have appeared on the Huffington Post, including a widely read and distributed post titled “Donald Trump Your Spiritual Teacher in Disguise” that now appears on her website along with a host of podcasts.
Pearce had this to say when asked how we navigate the conflicts we feel between our loyalty to the tradition we inherited and the inner promptings calling us to explore new realms:
“Usually we navigate with great difficulty because these traditions run really, really deep and there are familial relationships involved. “Part of it is recognizing the tensions that do exist and I also think it’s important to not allow fear to make our decisions for us both on our spiritual path and life in general.”
Sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Mysticims the program begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 2. The Parish Hall is located at 22. E. Chestnut Hill Ave. For more information on this or other events sponsored by the center, visit ContemporaryMysticism.org. For more information on Patricia Pearce and to listen to her podcasts, go to PatriciaPearce.com
Contributor Barbara Sherf can be reached through her website at CommunicationsPro.com