In every moment I can awaken trustfully to a dialogical, endlessly renewing communion* with the all-inclusively real,** that wherein we and all others “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). I awaken to this communion further as the all-inclusive good animating all other goods, where what we divide into “fact” and “value” are fundamentally entangled.

(Interestingly, I began to awaken to this when as a preadolescent I first started questioning everything I had been taught to believe. It encouraged me not to be afraid of questioning everything—even the awakening itself. I’m not sure how I would have tried to articulate it then. I knew it was difficult to articulate. And I found it both somewhat supportive of, yet somewhat challenging to, the God-talk of my Southern Baptist upbringing.)

As one peculiar sort of Anglo-Catholic Christian, I can rightfully continue to name this as communion with the God whose life Jesus pivotally embodies, without forbidding or discounting other namings.

Maybe I would not take this dialogical communion seriously if this awakening were not shared by countless others. But there are countless others who seem to share this awakening.

Maybe I would not take this dialogical communion seriously if there were not credible ways to articulate how it could be ever-present in a world aptly described through the anonymous, abstract formulas and concepts of the natural sciences. But there are credible ways to articulate this, especially those informed by process philosophy and theology. Note, however: my reliance on this dialogical communion began and persisted before I had ever heard of these movements. Also, one of my fairly controversial positions on the natural sciences is that, by their very nature, they confine themselves to anonymous, abstract formulas and concepts. What these formulas and concepts describe are real enough as far as they go. But our concrete experience of ourselves, of our surroundings, and of the all-inclusively real is constantly transcending any anonymous, abstract formulas and concepts and has as much claim to reality as any abstraction.*** (In this interpretation I follow the lead of philosophers of science representing the “Stanford School,” e.g., Nancy Cartwright and John Dupre, as well as the earlier work of Stephen Toulmin, one of my Ph.D. advisers.)

Thus in terms of my own adaptations of process thought, I also rightfully name this communion as newly interacting with uniquely all-inclusive way of newly interacting. But I don’t consider this naming “truer” than the namings of my Anglican faith community. It’s intentionally more generic, but that doesn’t make it “truer.” They’re both “true enough” in their own contexts. (Likewise, “dialogical, endlessly renewing communion with the all-inclusively real” is intentionally more generic than the namings of my faith community, but again, “more generic” doesn’t mean “truer.”)

Dialogical communion is neither controlling nor controlled, does not prevent differences from clashing, and thus will not protect me or those I love from incalculable degrees of suffering.

Yet even when life’s occurrences devastate, I can, without minimizing devastation, still awaken to this dialogical, endlessly renewing communion, and at least begin to move on with an ever-deepening compassion. (It’s gotten me through every loss so far, even when grief seemed overwhelming. I’m wagering it will continue doing that. What about death? Process thought allows me to wager further that this communion “reconcilingly continues the differing projects of every ended life, which means that no life is ever totally ended.” What that would be like, God alone knows. I’m OK with that.)

I awaken to this communion, somewhat, simply by writing this down, and then reading it.

But I also awaken to this communion, somewhat, when it’s all-inclusive mutuality prompts me to stand with all who are marginalized by our less mutually inclusive forms of togetherness.

And of course I awaken to this communion, somewhat, whenever I participate contemplatively in ancient and current forms of Christian worshiping. I sing songs, chant psalms and canticles, engage readings and reflections, recite prayers and  a credo, share a meal, none of which I would have written or designed myself, but all of which I can readily see as pointing to this dialogical, endlessly renewing communion with the God whose life Jesus pivotally embodies.

Pointing to this communion is the best any of us can do, and what I am writing and reading right now is simply another way of pointing that seems to suffice for the moment.

Fr. Charles

*Communion is intimately sharing others’ distinctive reality. It’s not total absorption—“communion” means “union-with,” and the “with” is just as crucial as the “union.” Differences don’t disappear but enhance the sharing. (Questions don’t disappear either!) Communion is dialogical when the sharing is mutual. At its most exceedingly inclusive this dialogical communion is oddly “I/You-ish,” even “I/Me-ish,” not just “I/It-ish,” as Martin Buber might say, and it is the oddly dialogical, interpersonal-like character of this communion, more than any other characteristic (like alleged omnipotence), that makes using the term “God” eminently fitting.

**I am using “real” in the everyday sense of what turns out to involve us, like it or not, noticed or not. That’s how we often use the word in everyday parlance, and that’s enough to justify its usage here. This is close to the definition of reality given by pragmatist William James, which he in turn stole from (non-pragmatist) British idealist A. E. Taylor: “anything is real of which we find ourselves obliged to take account in any way”—William James, Some Problems of Philosophy (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1996 [1911]), p. 101. Again, my usage is close, but not identical. There are more technical discussions of what “real“ means, and they can be very informative, but I am not counting on any of them.

***I am proceeding here by the “principle of sufficiency” formalized by Immanuel Kant: “the variety of entities should not be rashly diminished”—or as I would phrase it more empirically (i.e., experientially), don’t deny what’s experienced as real without a compelling reason. It’s the flip-side of William of Ockham’s “principle of parsimony” (“Occam’s Razor”): “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” The two principles, parsimony and sufficiency, are actually compatible (more here). So we can combine them into one principle: the variety of entities should neither be diminished nor multiplied beyond necessity.