We created this page for folks who don’t know about our community.
It’s a helpful way to check us out before you come. It’s also helpful if you’ve visited, found us pretty non-traditional, and would like to figure our how we got this way. It’s our story—the longest page on the site, but maybe the most helpful.
It is no secret that the Christian Church has seen better days. We’ve been in decline for at least 50 years—decline in numbers, and character, and reputation. The word “Christian” used to mean something good. Today it is associated with more negative things …
- Intolerance, hypocrisy, hatred, ignorance
- Exploiting adults for money and children for sex
- Antagonism toward science, women, and LGBT people
- And a lot more.
When we founded Common Thread in 1995 (We were called “North Raleigh Community Church” then), we were deeply disillusioned with religion. It was clear to us that the Church had lost its moral authority.
But we are not the first religious generation to have lost our way. We have a saying in our community. “It is our way to lose our way. But it is also our way to find it again when we do.”
So that’s what we’ve been working on—finding our way again. We have joined a growing community of churches asking ourselves a really uncomfortable question.
How did we get things so wrong?
Historically, when religion loses its way this badly, we wander in the wilderness. Our community decided to go there on purpose. We decided it was the place for us—humbled, quieted, and searching for a truer, more authentic spirituality.
1995 – 2006
Disillusioned as we were, we didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t build a church. We had rejected church. But we couldn’t give up. We’d experienced something beautiful in religion. We were so disoriented, we didn’t trust our own religious instincts.
So for a long time all we did was gather and become friends. We licked our wounds and grieved our losses. We were companions in our loss and confusion.
We asked hard questions about what it means to be Christian—and if we wanted to be. We asked what church meant—and if we wanted to be one. We questioned our most basic religious instincts. Why do people pray? Should we? Why do people sing? Should we? Should we gather on Sundays? Why do we sit in rows and listen to a talking head?
We had a lot of questions. Few answers.
It was a bewildering time.
It was a dismantling time.
We took comfort in the ancient wisdom that there is a time to tear down, and a time to build up. We were pretty focused on the tearing down part.
We gave ourselves permission to question our most cherished beliefs and traditions. We couldn’t really do anything else. Our religion was falling apart anyway.
So 1995 to 2006 was about stripping down. We did very little outwardly. We had very few programs, did very little to care for our city. We were pretty worn out and spent.
But we did stumble onto our religion’s contemplative tradition. That helped us.
- We learned the beauty of quieter, simpler lives.
- We rediscovered the ancient practice of meditation.
- We stopped settling for secondhand, institutional religion.
- We began contending for firsthand spiritual encounter.
- We learned to listen carefully for the interior whispers of the Divine.
- And to restitch the torn fabric of community, because we do better on the spiritual journey together than we do alone.
By the end of the decade we were experiencing a freer spirituality. No more sectarian oughts or shoulds. In the wilderness, we relearned the ancient wisdom of our tradition. Our souls began to heal. Our experience of Divine Life was deepened.
2007 – 2014
We would have stayed quietly in seclusion, rediscovering and savoring our newly restitched spiritual community. Except, in 2007 two things happened.
First, our minister did a bunch of lessons about how the Church is undergoing a new Reformation. He told us that five hundred years ago the last Reformation updated our religion to work in that newly emerging worldview (Newton’s). But now, we have to have our own Reformation, and update our religion again for our new worldview (Einstein’s). He kept talking about seeing things differently, rethinking our most basic religious assumptions. It was a lot of change. It was pretty disorienting.
The bad news: forty percent of the community left that year.
The good news: sixty percent stayed.
There was a lot of loss and grief that year.
Second, some of us began to feel a rising sense of restlessness about how isolated we were. We knew something wonderful was happening in our community, but felt like we were hiding it. We knew there were others in our city who could benefit the same way we were.
So in late 2007 and early 2008, our community began talking about opening our hearts and doors to others. We’d talk about it—but then many of us would get afraid and back off. Then we’d talk again—and back away again. It went that way for a long time.
We were afraid that if our community got bigger, we’d lose something precious. Bigger numbers had always been a driving force in the churches we came from. We’d been down that road and were in no hurry to go again.
But after a while we couldn’t shake the restlessness. We felt the same nudge to exit the wilderness, we’d felt years before, to enter it.
Our minister captured the restlessness for us, and said it in these words: “There are people in our city on the same journey we are. But they’re alone.” Then he’d talk about inviting them to travel with us.
But again, burned by the church rat wheel, we’d done the whole reach-out-to-others thing. We’d already been sucked into a vortex of religious performance.
So thank you, Reverend Man … No.
So he’d back off for a while. But then he’d come back. “There are people in our city,” he’d repeat, “on the same journey we are. Let’s invite them to travel with us.” (He’s a persistent guy.)
So we’d consider it—but make excuses. Our facility wasn’t finished. We didn’t have coffee in the lobby. We were barely getting the bathrooms clean. It sounded exhausting! We were afraid we’d lose our souls.
He was nice about it. But he kept coming back. And nudging. And cajoling. And backing off. And coming back.
Until finally our hearts began to soften.
And after a year of that, we began to overcome our fears. By 2008, the idea of opening our hearts and doors actually became exciting.
We began to get our facility ready. We began to write down the things we had experienced so we could tell our story. We redesigned our website to help people figure out if our community was a fit for them.
We were figuring out how to invite you to our community.
And now you’re here. Now you’re reading this.
And now, we are inviting you to share the spiritual journey with us.
If you are a church-leaver or a non-practicing Christian …
If you find yourself becoming more spiritual, but less religious …
If you are weary of empty religious forms, but hungry for authentic spirituality …
… we’d like to invite you to walk this journey with us.
2014 – Present
In 2014, our minister wrote a book about the things we learned together in the wilderness. At that time, we were part of a pretty traditional denomination. He wrote the book to help traditional Christians find a way out of this historical pickle we’re in.
You might be surprised. That traditional denomination didn’t appreciate his help.
They invited him to not be a minister in the denomination anymore (that’s a nice way to say it).
But when he was kicked out, we all voted to go with him. It was a challenging time, because the denomination owned our building—and kicked us out. So we were both orphaned—and homeless.
As we were wondering if our community would survive, some very kind people from Temple Baptist Church heard about our dilemma. They invited us to share space with them. They have a large campus and invited us to use the chapel and children’s wing at the back of their property. Sharing space is a beautiful concept. It meets our space needs, keeps us out of debt, and reduces our environmental footprint. We like that.
And now we are relocated downtown. As we write this update, our hearts have healed, our future is secure, and we are anticipating traveling the spiritual journey with you.
So Again …
If traditional church has stopped working for you …
If you are spiritual, but burned by organized religion …
If you find yourself alone on the spiritual journey and would like to share it with others …