by Rev. Courtney D. Arntzen
Spiritual curiosity and sacred questions exist beyond our church doors among many who are situationally marginalized and/or institutionally suspicious. Where do such spiritual curiosities and sacred questions find a hearing when one is not affiliated with a faith community?
I worked closely with MIC during my years as a pastor. When I tell the story of the Missoula Community Chaplain, it starts with my connection to MIC. After leading a reflection at MIC’s celebration event of music and storytelling, I found myself hearing a different set of stories at the Top Hat while a band played on stage. I heard stories from individuals who did not know if they would be safe or welcome in a traditional faith community. Yet, they asked big questions about God, faith, and the seeming faithlessness of God’s church. They thanked me for listening and asked if we could meet again. Their request had me wondering: Who will listen to them as they wrestle with big questions? Who will nurture their spirituality? Who will come alongside them where they are? I wanted to be that person.
Not too long later, I found myself at a Welcome Back Potluck listening to stories of struggle and barriers as well as stories of hope. I wondered again about the barrier that a traditional faith community can be for many people within the Missoula Community. “Who will come alongside these people as they wrestle with questions of meaning or purpose?” I wanted to be that person.
Over the last 17 months, I have found ways to participate and be present for others. I conducted memorials through the communities of Family Promise and Crosswinds Recovery. I provided a reflective workshop for Common Ground/MIC Core Team Leaders. I offer spiritual check-ins with the women’s house of Crosswinds Recovery and regularly participate with Welcome Back. I see a handful of non-profit employees for one-on-one spiritual companionship as together we explore their spirituality and how it intersects with their life. In all of this, I get to be present with people on their spiritual quest.
Over the last year, it became increasingly urgent that accessible spiritual care for those outside a traditional faith community is needed. As a community, we work hard to manage and ensure accessibility for our physical, mental, and emotional health. In the midst of this, my observation is that many ask questions of purpose, meaning, life, and death, questions centered around what they believe about the world, humanity, and many a higher power/god/sacred other. If they do not feel safe or welcome within a community of faith, where do they go? If they don’t have a faith tradition they are familiar with, where do they begin? I hope to be an easily accessible person for those beginning their exploration of faith and spirituality.
Want to be a part of this work?
Right now, I am looking for a couple of businesses/non-profits to explore how accessible spiritual care can supplement their employee wellness plan. Please reach out if you are interested in learning more or having me speak/present to a group that you think may be interested in partnering with me.
As a start-up venture, I am also looking for financial partners to offset the cost of ensuring accessible spiritual care for the broader Missoula community.
I am grateful to extend my connection with MIC further, as MIC recently agreed to sponsor this work fiscally.
To financially support Missoula Community Chaplain’s work, please send contributions to MIC with Missoula Community Chaplain in the memo. Mail contributions to 2205 34th St. Missoula, MT 59801
Rev. Courtney D. Arntzen