A way to connect spiritually

`Seekers': Journeys Community in Columbia offers the nontraditional, which emphasizes `experience and not dogma' as a way for people to find God.


February 04, 2005|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

People who feel the traditional church does not satisfy their spiritual needs might want to check out Journeys Community, a fellowship of men and women who explore spirituality as individuals and in connection with others.

The Rev. Harry Brunett, spiritual leader of Journeys, said it is a place where people "recognize that God is present in the culture and can be revealed through the ordinary."

Journeys, which meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at Vantage House in Columbia, involves those who attend, or "seekers," discussing a theme of the week. Music, movie clips and readings from children's literature, poems and religious texts are used to illustrate the week's message.

Those who attend also have an opportunity to meditate on issues that deal with the human existence such as forgiveness, faith, love, tolerance and death.

Outreach projects serve the greater community, and small groups promote fellowship among the seekers.

"We embrace all of culture and recognize that the experience of God is a very [personal experience]" Brunett said. "We're very inclusive and welcoming."

He added that the group does not subscribe to one set of religious beliefs.

"It's based on experience and not dogma," he said.

Brunett, a minister ordained in the Episcopal Church, explained that Journeys began in 2001 after he led a committee to examine ways to connect with people "who haven't found the traditional church to be helpful."

"This started out with my vision," said Brunett, a former civil rights worker who added that he has worked throughout his life to "empower marginalized people."

Journeys' first service was Sept. 9, 2001, with a small group of people in the cafeteria of an elementary school.

As word spread about the ministry, more people joined the group. In 2003, the ministry eventually moved to Vantage House, where Brunett was executive director during the 1990s.

About 55 people attend the weekly service, Brunett said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland supports the ministry through financial contributions and through encouragement, Brunett said.

Chuck Donofrio, a co-founder of Journeys with Brunett, said their research showed that people "had a belief in a higher power but rejected theology as determined by somebody else."

As an example of that, he noted that some people stated they were turned off by the Catholic Church's stances against gay marriage and abortion.

"Those are polarizing issues," Donofrio said.

He added that people who spoke to the committee about their beliefs said they felt "spiritual" connection in a variety of ways, including driving in a car alone listening to soft music and walking in the woods enjoying nature.

After gathering their research, Donofrio, who works in marketing and advertising, said Journeys was born. "It's been fascinating," he said. "A lot of the people feel they have room to move and are part of a community of people on individual spiritual paths."

Valerie Bornemann, a veterinarian who was among the first seekers of Journeys, said she used to belong to a traditional church but found that it did not meet her needs.

"I began to realize that the standard liturgy was not out of specific teachings [of Jesus]," she said.

Information: www.journeys community.org

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