Monday, February 18, 2013

Importance of Community

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25

I feel community is the perfect mid-blog topic- because the topic really speaks to what this blog is about- developing and inspiring community around faith. After reflecting now for about 6 months, I am in many ways more grounded in my faith. But in many more ways I feel the result of writing has been more questions, more ups and downs- maybe growth but growth in the sense that right now I am more present to the new overwhelming challenges lying ahead than the triumphs of the past. I am greatful for what I have learned and the new wisdom others have shared with me in dialogue. Yet the search continues. And I realize more and more how a faith journey is just not one that is meant to be embarked on alone.

Human's require community, we are social beings. Many enjoy time spent alone with their own thoughts, but for most being alone is only so sustainable. I know I am especially avoidant of spending time alone, as a strong extravert more often than not I search for social interaction. After a long day at work, 30 minutes in a group gathering can more than rejuvinate me.

The irony I find in today's society is that although we are electronically more communicative and connected than ever, people feel increasingly more alone and isolated from others. I know I sometimes feel like my own little ship, although along my day I encounter many other ships, ultimately I sail alone and chart my own voyage. So in our technologically powerful yet individualistic society, where do we go to find community?

Ask yourself the question: Where do I belong? To whom do I belong? What are some of my communities? What is home to me?

One of the times I felt the most isolated from people but most connected to God was during my trip to the middle east. I did experience a certain thrill of meeting and connecting with foreigners, learning about new people and cultures. However I did feel misplaced from 'my community of people', I knew what it was to be an outsider, and I craved at times to once again know a sense of belonging. Towards the end of my trip I did really learn to adopt, I had this sense of being a citizen of the world, of knowing that no matter what place or time I was in as long as God was with me I would be ok. But on my flight home, I remember promising myself: next time I will set out with someone I love, someone who is a part of my intimate community. I am not meant to travel alone.

So why community? What does community mean? To me the word means a gathering, a bond shared by many. A community is a place that many different people belong and are able to support one another and work together. A community is an army at your back, the wind beneathe your wings. Community is the ultimate reassurance each of us is not alone. A community is those we can go to when we are weak, down or unsure. A community is an opportunity for contribution, for each individual who belongs to fulfill a sense of purpose by serving the greater whole. A neighborhood, a club, a church, a company, a sports team: those are all examples of community to me.
And what is at the essence of "a sense of community?" The things that come to mind to me are connections/bonds with others within the community. Actually reaching out and being reached out to for the purpose of connection. Another element that comes to mind is by being in the community, a certain affinity is generated. By belonging and connecting, I develop loyalty and compassion for others in my community. Finally, a higher purpose I think is also essential: whether fostering an appreciation for a hobby or protecting the survival of a certain body of people (a family perhaps?). It makes sense to me also that a healthy community is also naturally inclusive. The community wants more to be united and join, as ong as those joining do not disrupt the community's higher purpose or uniting tenant.

Community is fostered in many ways spiritually. The church is a community, as well as other bodies of people who come together to contemplate, serve and rejoice in the divine. One way to define faith is a community of many people united over a spiritual bond/understanding. I think the church, christianity and other religions are one of the primary ways people find community in their lives.

I am fortunate to be a part of many communities, in Ultimate Frisbee, at Work, in Worldbridge. I am a part of the Uptown community, the St. Olaf alumni community. I am also a part of the Urban Refuge community-my church. However lately I have been neglecting that community. Due to travel and a variety of other excuses, last sunday was the first time I had gone to Church since Christmas. Furthermore, due to scheduling conflicts I have become less and less active in a church small group or sub community. When I did go to church this last weekend it was so refreshing- to actively listen, be around others etc.

I feel there are many Christians these days who choose to not go to church often. I, having been one of these people myself during periods of my life, understand how it can be hard to fit in and other times not always a fun activity. Churches, like every other community I know, are also admittedly not flawless. Their are times when poor decisions are made, communications misrepresented, sins are committed. There are times when the church says things I or others disagree with.

But I do not think these flaws outweigh the benefits to belonging to a church community and participating in it. I think by being a part of a church you really get to experience community at a whole different level- connecting, sharing and contributing to others, growing in well-being and faith. Practicing important values such as compassion, listening, charity, service. Not to mention when going to church I am reminded of the bigger picture, the commitment of all the people to God and of doing their best to be good people.

In the next couple of months, I do plan to make a renewed effort to be a part of my church. So often in my churches I have experienced being an observer, an outsider. I wonder now what it will be like to become (at least beyond my current level of comfort in doing so) more a part of the church community and body. To know that sense of belonging, guidance. To trust. That is my biggest shortcoming in all of this, I think to trust in my church community. I have so often remained the skeptic when it comes to church. Maybe it is worth setting that aside for awhile, and practicing something new.

1 comment:

  1. The need for meaningful community never goes away. We are created for community, and we cannot grow, serve, and love without making this a priority. You are right, Kelsie, you are a true extrovert! When I read your comment about "relaxing" with a group of people after a day of work, I realized again how different extroverts are from introverts. After a long day of work, I always feel I need to decompress by being ALONE. People and relationships are work for me as an introvert, but oh how I need them continually!
    The church is a commjunity of broken people, like all communities. Some say that religion is a crutch for weak people, and perhaps that is true ... but then, we are all weak in different ways, and usually people who seek answers in faith are able at least to recognize that they need help.
    Christ loved the church, calling it his bride. And I love the church too, with all its diversity and variance of style throughout the world. The church stands as a beacon of love and hope to all who are willing to enter its doors. There are hypocrites in church, as there are everywhere, but there are also the saints ... those who honestly seek to be better people, to know God personally, to worship God with music and with their talents and gifts, and to encourage and help those less fortunate than they.
    So glad you are back at church, discovering anew the richness of community and faith. Churches are a place to serve, to grow, to learn, and to discover your gifts.