There are lots of ways to name when people come together in worship: churches, families, gatherings, assemblies, communions, parishes, dioceses, conventions, temples, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, monasteries, convents, basilicas, cathedrals, meeting houses, daoguans, candis. And those are many of the names we use when worship is in one way or another "institutionalized."
I used to meet my friend Rev. Sam Buice at the Duncan Bridge over the Chattahoochee, where he had parked his truck and drive him to where Blue Creek Rd. crossed over the same Chattahoochee before he would climb into his kayak and paddle his way down stream.
The last thing we'd do before his embarking was open our prayerbooks to read Morning Prayer together. A little less institutionalized, especially if you need a building for it to count, but adequately structured to be on the above list.
These types of gatherings often have to be understood by some under the "spiritual but not religious" banner exactly because the institutional pieces are so cumbersome or pressing. Most everyone, even those of us who make a living by way of and for the institutional church go alone to the woods in some way but can still share the experience with others.
Yes, many of us have a practice of private devotions, private prayers, private meditation but we are also ready to share from those sources of strength and refreshment. Indeed, many of us cannot wait to talk about our experiences from in and around those privacies.
In other words, connections matter. Just like the word religion means our being tied back to God, our individual, personal, spiritual epiphanies and prayers urge us to be with others, to share, to celebrate.
It happens enough to warrant mention that lots of spirituality suffers the absence of others. Churches, temples, daoguns are a hedge that the institutionalizing grows against the idiosyncrasies we create when we keep our spirits to ourselves.
So I have little problem with the recent FaceBook meme that preferred thinking about God while kayaking over being in church yet thinking about kayaking.
Based on the experience my daughter and I had paddling and double portaging the Oconee between Simonton Bridge and the NFS boat ramp near Hwy 15 and Ward Road north of Greensboro I'd say for several reasons God was mentioned more than enough.
Good or bad, it was more of a religious experience than we intended. In the end the best part of our "adventure" was what we shared, how we enjoyed and struggled together and still now how we are connected in a way we were not the day before.
I hope our religion has us saying the same about our Advent connections.