GraceNotes: Holding the Space for … Reflection
#72 — April 1, 2018
Fellowship is a place of grace…
— Rick Warren
Greetings, Inspired Seekers!
What makes good community? I've been asking this a lot lately as I watch the youth of America come together, united, in the holy passion of peace.
No, this is not a political rant - it is a thoughtful question about communities of faith. One that deserves consideration in difficult times. For this unification of youth comes at a time when other communities are dissolving.
Many organized religions of differing faiths are struggling to survive today; churches, synagogues and other established organizations are shutting their doors. Are these closings the result of lack of faith or are they due to a lack of real community? I do not really know the answer, but I struggle with the loss.
Community means many things to many people but it does require a connection that extends beyond the Sabbath itself. A “home” is a home always, not simply on a designated day of the week or during times of celebration and loss. A home community sits within us and connects us when we are present and when we are physically absent.
While it is unrealistic to believe that a faith community can meet all of our needs and expectations, there are a set of equations that exist in every relationship, be they individual or communal. If those equations are out of balance, the relationship suffers and, in the end, breaks.
We must ask ourselves if we are expecting too much from the community and if we are contributing too little. And the community must challenge itself to be rich and robust in its connection and engagement with those who choose to enter its doors. And with the wider world. And everyone must remember that connections do not break simply because the doors close and physical presence exits. Is the community living their professed faith beyond the times they gather?
Most growing faiths are growing because they are seen as fully integrated in the lives of their practitioners. And practitioner is an important word; we must be able to practice fully connected faith each day, not just in one place at a given time. If those relationships do not extend into the world, they fail and the organizations fail with them.
The recent marches against gun violence are an example of a community coming together, without spiritual judgment, to support the cause of peace. Young people of all beliefs and ethnicities, at times guided by elders, left the comfort of home, city and state for the greater good. They took their faith with them into the world with the hope of helping everyone.
Whatever our faith, whatever our belief, are we really working for the good of everyone, without judgment or malice? Or do we, as adults, put up walls, create man-made rules and try to keep out others who are different? There is no other way to destroy community faster than that.
Be honest. Look within. It might be time for real community to make a comeback. And we might have a new model right in front of us.
Monthly Affirmation: I am a welcoming community for all I meet.
The Reverend Dr. Deborah Darlington is an Interfaith Minister who celebrates life events in sacred ceremonies for people of all traditions. She can be reached at 215 260 1611 or at GraceMatters@TheSpaceForGrace.com.