Do you have a community?
Getting myself ready for a new season means some reflection and some ‘thought chewing’ time and my thoughts have turned to those of community …
I said to a friend of mine the other day – what if this journey doesn’t work out for me – what if I come out of seminary in three years and there is no job for me, no church for me – what if the Methodist Church has closed down – stranger things have happened you know – what if I ‘graduate’ and I am stuck, no income and no job. This delightful friend understands my flair for the dramatic and always has the right words and he said, ‘your friends will help you’. Sjoe, momentary sigh of peace … and then … sure, my friends will help me but for how long? Isn’t this a job for community?
Communities are designed to take care of one another, communities are where we find our strength and comfort – ‘for where 2 or more are gatherered in my name, there I am also’. (Matt 18:20) God is in the midst of community because community is where we support life – but where is my community? Is it my family, my mother, my sister and myself? Is it our extended family, cousins, aunts and uncles? Is it my church community which I am moving away from? Is it the new place I am going to?
Well yes to all of the above I suppose, community is wherever we find ourselves with our common people. Why is it then that so many people feel alone? Is it because our communities are namesakes only and not the sacred spaces we expect them to be? Is it because we ourselves are cut off from communities? I live in a share block – I have neighbours – I never see them, I never speak to them, well unless absolutely necessary (please God don’t let anyone invade my sacred home space) interacting with neighbours, I would rather stick sharp pins in my eyes…
Nice and scary – supportive and intrusive … I recognise the importance of community and yet am unable to shake myself out of my solitary existence to form a community, outside of my family, that I can trust and rely on – because let’s face it, only I can create the kind of community I am looking for and offer the kind of support I would like to receive myself. BUT, living in community takes courage – letting people see all of you for who you are, it takes commitment – nurturing friendships and relationships and it takes communication – with God through prayer, and with one another.
We just need to look at our own South African context to witness the demise of community and the demise of affection within existing communities. Wendell Berry blames individualism (our need to protect our own interests rather than the interests of our communities) and the power of the multinational for the weakening of the community. Whilst we focus on ourselves and contemplating our own lives and rights, multinationals are using our divisiveness to exploit and use us. We have no power, because community is our power, communities voice is loudest because it has a vested interest and because it is focused on the immediate task at hand… protecting the community. Community is what will transform the way we want to live.
Chances are we are already in communities – it is human nature to group together, but what are we doing within those communities? Are we recognizing our shared visions, are we speaking life into the shared visions? Are we holding one another in Christ-like affection (loving someone does not mean having to like them) are we taking care of each other – not just the ones it’s easy to take care of? Are we recognizing one another’s strengths and weaknesses and using them for our shared benefit?
My cry about community is perhaps Gods cry into my heart about community – perhaps it’s a wakeup call to say Philippa, are you rooted in community?
- Have you identified your community?
- Have you committed yourself to that community?
- Are you sharing yourself courageously with your community?
- Are you praying for your community whilst communicating within your community?
I did have a dream about this, the little stone car dream, perhaps it’s time to work on that dream.