While I’m normally fairly consistent in posting to this blog, it’s been a while since I’ve written. A bout with a bum shoulder limited my writing for a while.
One of the things that’s been happening in my life is becoming part of a new church community. For the last seven years I’d commuted from my home to my church in the city where I used to live. While I felt much grief in the move, it was finally time to settle in and put down roots in my own town.
The new church is not altogether unfamiliar. The more I visited the more connections I discovered: from childhood, college, seminary, my clinical training. I am now in choir with my sixth grade teacher. It took great effort on my part to begin calling her by her first name.
Renewed connections have made the move unexpectedly joyful. And yet, it has also been unsettling.
This is the first time in my adult life that I’m a member of a church that I did not serve in some staff capacity. I came from a church where I’d served as Associate Minister for six years and with whom I’d been a member for twenty-four of the last twenty-six years. (I tend not to do a lot of church hopping.)
I’m having to learn names – a lot of them. I look forward to a new directory so that I can study on my own. My first Sunday processing in with the choir I was full of questions. Which way did I go? I had to figure out where the chapel was. Heck, I had to figure out where the bathrooms were.
I often see people who are struggling with a lack of community in their lives. This experience of transition has reminded me of how intentional we have to be about creating community for ourselves. As we grow older, it’s easier just not to try. Formerly, while I still had to learn the names and faces of newcomers, I’d been in one place so long that church was easy for me. Now I have to start again. One of the dangers of growing older is not being willing to risk starting new.
I sometimes see people waiting for community to knock on their front doors. It doesn’t happen that way. We have to seek it out. We have to be intentional. Creating community is work. More than that, it is risky work in the way that getting to know others and allowing them to get to know us carries with it risk.
I’d been in one community so long I kind of knew where my place was in it, the niches that called for my particular gifts. I’m having to ask those questions all over again. Where am I called to serve?
Not asking isn’t an option. Being in community carries with it a share of responsibility for the health and life of the community as a whole. What am I called to do that will help make this community stronger? How do I balance my need to serve with my need to keep balance and rest in my life?
There are times for stepping back. I know that as well as any, having just come through a four year journey of caregiving that took precedence over every other commitment in my life. But for most of our journey, just going along for the ride isn’t possible. A community cannot thrive without the investment of its members. Showing up. Sharing gifts. Risking knowing and being known. And we cannot thrive without some sort of community.
Places and gatherings and circles of connection that promise community are not always healthy . Part of finding community in our lives is paying attention when something does not feel right or safe, seeking discernment for unhealthy patterns.
Community is a framework of connections in which we can laugh and weep, which nudges us along in the path of our dreams and sits with us in our suffering. A community may also confront us when we are reluctant to be honest with ourselves. We need community for, as God observed in the garden long ago, it is not good that we be alone.
I’ve written here of a church community but community can take many different shapes and forms. What does it look like in your life?
Where do you find community in your life? Are you intentional in seeking community and investing in it.?