Friday, February 06, 2009

Community

Part of the series "A Manifesto--of Sorts"

Scripture, the Bible, is a building block to my faith and my beliefs on how I should act in the world.  Being brought up in a caring and loving United Methodist Church I consider a few other aspects to inform my faith and beliefs, these aspects are experience, reason, and tradition.  This is not just the way I do theology, but how I assess and live my life.  But, I suppose when it comes down to the bottom line, the way I choose to live my life is theological.

I believe humans were created for community.  I’ve come to this conclusion, first by my experiences in the world.  Simply, I do not like to be alone.  There are times that I enjoy silence and quiet reflection by myself.  But when it boils down to living my day-to-day life, I prefer to share it with someone.  This someone is my husband the majority of the time, however, I enjoy and feel the need to include as many people as possible in the ordinary things.

Everyone loves to get together and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.  But most people do not get together to share the mundane; preparation of a weekday meal, the grocery shopping, laundry, and other chores of life.  People travel in the same direction to work everyday, and many chose to do that in a car by themselves.  Why do we not reach out to one another, and ask for each other’s presence in our lives?

A simple answer to this could be that a particular person is introverted, and does not feel the necessity to share their lives.  Or it could be that no one knows how to do this in a manner that is fluid and not awkward.  Sharing the ordinary is not an easy task.  Everyone has different ways of cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, and simply living their lives.  They’ve never had to give reasons for why they do something a certain way, and may have never entertained the thought that there may be an easier, more efficient, or different way of doing things. 

In the Genesis 2 creation story we read, “Then the Lord God said ‘It is not right that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner (Gen. 2:18).’”  In this very first instance we read in Scripture that God created humans to not be alone, for us to have helpers and partners in our daily lives.  From this first verse all the way through the Hebrew Bible and New Testament we encounter instances, when God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit works in ways to bring humans together; God’s Covenant with the Israelites, Jesus gathering his disciples, and the structure of the early church.

Monasteries from very early church history are an example of people coming together to be in community.  Humans have come together throughout the history of the church.  I will admit that all of these communities did not turn out as planned or are not examples of what I wish to follow in my life.  The Shaker communities in 18th century desired to live a Utopian lifestyle and had a law for every aspect of life thrived into the early 19th century with as many as 6000 members and eventually declined during the American Civil War.  There can be many critiques made about the Shaker communities, but they are seen as one of the more successful Utopian societies in the 19th century.

In the 1960s-1970s many communities formed around ideals of the counter culture and these were often referred to as communes.  These communes lived on the outskirts of society, and daily life was shared.  In most instances these communes were known for their drug use and promiscuity, and were not formed on Christian beliefs.  Usually because of disagreements or disillusions about communal life, these communes eventually dissolved and their members returned back to society; however a few still remain.

Today there are thriving communities formed around an array of beliefs and ideals, and are now more commonly known as Intentional Communities.  Some are Christian, some practice other religions, and some claim no religious affiliation.  It is these Christian communities that I am most interested in.  I want to learn about their successes, their failures, and their motivating factors of living in community.  Many of these communities are more traditional, but contemporary models of monasticism.  There is also a movement that has been called New Monasticism. This movement, like many, is hard to define or put edges around.

I am driven to community, to look for places in the ordinary to share with others.  I am not speaking of a Utopian society, but one where those who live within a community then go out into the world using their resources that they have formed to be the hands and feet of Christ.  It makes me nervous to say something like this in a public forum, although I’ve had plenty of conversations with people about this idea.  The truth is, I do not have much experience “out there” in the world.  I do not know how to minister to the poor and needy.  Most of all I fear failure in an attempt to form a community who lives and breathrs the life of Christ together.  Perhaps we all fear to fail and that is why we keep to ourselves.  Living our separate lives, while we struggle with being Christians in the 21st century.  But if we truly want to live in the kingdom, I believe, we as Christians have to come together to work in the world.  I hope that you as my readers will explore this concept with me as we journey together.

You can read the introduction to this series here.

5 comments:

Penny Reid said...

Are you familiar with The Simple Way? Have you read "The Irresistible Revolution" - I highly recommend it. I think you would like it. Hugs, Penny
ps John Wesley would be proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tine, I imagine you will think I don't understand what you are saying and maybe I don't but...I think you have found a community of sorts that seems to be trying to live thses principels. Terra Nova is striving to be the hands and feet of Christ, at least what I read on site and in blogs. Just my thoughts love you and glad to read your entries. xoxo hugs mom

Chrissy Joy said...

Penny, Yes and Yes.
Mom, why would I think you don't understand what I'm saying?? Love you too.

Pastor Jim said...

Hey Chrissy,

Nice start:) I agree with Penny that Wesley would be proud, but I think that we can also find in Wesley another example of a reason that we are hesitant to live in community today and that is the word “accountability.” If we read through the openness and accountability that was expected of a member of one of Wesley's Band Groups, I think that we would be terrified of that level of honesty today. Here are a few examples that would certainly make me think twice: (I’m afraid that my answers might lean more toward NO) LOL

1. Do you desire to be told of your faults?

2. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?

3. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?

4. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?

5. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?

6. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?

Now with that being said, I believe that if we truly want to live in community, then we need to be open and accountable to each other and that can be downright scary:)

Just a thought!
Blessings
Jim

Chrissy Joy said...

Doh! Jim, I forgot about accountability. I was totally going to write about it, slipped my mind. Thanks for reminding me about this... It will get added in a future draft.