A new study, described in Scotland’s Sunday Herald, says that fully 50% of Europeans are no longer attached to a particular religious institution but continue to have a sincere interest in spirituality. The researchers are calling this the ‘Fuzzy Fidelity’ denomination - it is virtually the same group as that I might usually call ’spiritual but not religious.’ Clearly, there are a vast number of spiritually oriented people who have found that traditional religious communities and institutions are not the right fit for them.

Established churches are panicking at the news and disparately seeking ways to get back their lost sheep! As though the building they hold services in is the only problem, they are taking their same old show to new venues

…Some congregations are fighting back, holding services in shops and gyms in an effort to attract uncommitted believers into the church.

But they miss the point entirely. The spiritual but not religious (can I please call them SBNRs?) are not interested in the same old story. As the researchers say, ‘this new denomination has only a vaguely defined notion of a “divine entity.”‘ In other words, they are not looking for a sense of the sacred that is portrayed as Jesus on a cross, Adonai in his throne, or any of the other traditional God images. Theirs is a less concrete - but more immediate and intimate divinity. Many SBNRs have a sense of the sacred all around them - in nature, in human hearts, in all beings, and especially in love. Many of them will identify with what the researchers term ‘Sheilaism’!

‘The term Sheilaists derives from an interview with a woman called Sheila who defined her religious conviction as: “Sheilaism: I just have a little voice in my head.”

Religion and spirituality are in a major upheaval. Sheliaists, SBNRs, and the Fuzzy Fidelity denomination are not the minority - their way has become the norm. The old ways no longer speak to the vast majority of Europeans, but the quest for meaning, connection, purpose, community, and acceptance that these institutions once met are still there. We have become a searching people - trying, testing, adopting, rejecting, and moving on… And the religious institutions of the future will be those that support this ongoing personalised search.

This is why UKS is here. I hope that UKS programmes provide the kind of opportunities you need to carry on your search and provide you with a community to help. Do let us know if there ways in which we can more fully support your journey!

Author's Bio: 

Andrew Pakula is Minister to the Newington Green and Islington Unitarians, a rapidly-growing, radically-inclusive, spiritual community in north London. He directs UKspirituality.org, a not-for-profit association of quality providers of spiritual events, programmes, and workshops.

With a Jewish background and influences from many other religious traditions, his is a particularly open and eclectic approach to spirituality. Andrew believes that authentic spirituality provides a way of living deeply, meaningfully, and with connection and that it offers an essential antidote to the busy, individualistic, materialistic culture in which we live.