I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be in community. A couple of definitions of the word community sort of get at the root meaning of the word…
- a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
When we think about experiencing community in the context of being the church, it seems the second definition most aptly applies. We share a common purpose and set of beliefs. We believe in God who has created all that is, we believe in Jesus Christ who has given us a direct experience of God in the flesh. Who has shown us the way to live now and eternally. We believe in the Holy Spirit who empowers and sustains us. Our purpose would be to bring together those who believe to worship and serve God, in whom we believe.
I believe community is the vehicle by which we can achieve our purpose. The problem in these days has been how to achieve community. We are told its not safe to gather in large groups, its best to practice social distancing, sanitize everything, wear masks. These things seem to be be antithetical to the idea of community.
We have come to understand community as being physically present with one another. Sharing hugs and holding hands, close physical touch. Being in conversation with each other, as one friend put it, “eyeball to eyeball.” We are accustomed to being in close proximity, seeing and touching. I cannot imagine comforting someone without the ability to hug them, to share their tears, to let them know by my physical presence, that I am totally available to them in their time of need. This is what community has meant to me, especially in regard to our church family.
In our present situation, this idea of community has been altered. At present, we cannot engage in the kinds of actions I have come to think of synonymously as a huge part of being a community.
Maybe a different idea of community has to exist for us right now. Maybe sharing our beliefs has to take place virtually. Maybe our physical touch has to be replaced with written and spoken words, possibly conveyed through video or internet. I know, these are not satisfactory substitutions for what has been integral to our sense of community.
Jesus had a community of followers around him almost constantly for the 3 years of his earthly ministry. They went everywhere with him. They showed up when he preached and taught, they engaged in missional activities with him, they slept with him and woke with him. There did come a day though, when he had to leave them. They too were confused and challenged by who they could maintain community without Jesus’ physical presence. Guess what? They discovered that Jesus WAS with them in each other. They discovered their sense of community had not diminished, it had grown larger. Their community had enlarged to include all people, everywhere.
Maybe our community is enlarging also friends. We have discovered new people who have found community with us via online. We have found there are so many others who share our beliefs and want desperately to be in community with us. The change in community for us might be a healthy thing, we may be learning community is not only found inside the walls of our church, but more importantly on the outside. I long for the day when we can gather together physically again, but I dream also that when that time occurs, you and I will have others to bring with us to that gathering. I dream of the new people we will meet who are enlarging our community right now. I pray for our community to continue in our hearts and minds, and to carry us in this time to the time to come.
Love, Grace, Peace and Community my friends,