Any time I get involved in a new community, I cannot help but think of the old Woody Allen line, “Why would I ever want to be part of a group that would have me as a member?!?”
As I am being welcomed into the FUM community, it does make me wonder a bit about your good judgment … Even so, I am glad for it! Your kind connections, willingness to partner in our common work and acceptance make me feel right at home. Your warm embrace rekindles in me the memory of first being embraced by Christ in whose arms I found overwhelming mercy and my true home.
This is, of course, part of the ongoing work and witness of those who are Christ followers. We are called to continue to incarnate — flesh out — the life, love and ministry of Jesus to people seeking a home in God. By doing so, we offer a great gift to others and bear witness to the Life and Power that animates our lives and the real Presence of God in our midst.
Assuming you’ve engaged in this work for a while, you also know just how hard it can be!
It is common in the spiritual life to categorize certain things as spiritual disciplines. Prayer, scripture reading, journaling, fasting — these usually get recognized as habits and activities to develop. Community, however, rarely gets named as a discipline, one needing to be studied and practiced. Often, people express gratitude if they happen to have any sense of community in their meeting/ church … and not a lot of surprise if they do not. We take what we can get, rather than expect we must make something of our life together.
As I read Friends history, we have rightly understood that it is the Presence of Christ in and among us that knits us together in the bond of peace, leads us forward and empowers us to carry out God’s work in the world. In our diversity and despite our personal idiosyncrasies, Christ’s unifying love and real Presence have the capacity to transcend and transform us and make us into something more lovely than we could ever be on our own.
This does not happen by accident, however, nor apart from our active involvement. Actually, it requires costly acts of faith and daring, hopeful steps by us. Things so simple to talk about — honesty, confession, forgiveness, honoring and believing the best of each other, mutual submission, willing service — can be painfully hard to live out with integrity. Perseverance, practice and many prayers — usually involving surrender by us — are needed.
It is no wonder some of us give up trying and assume “community” is one of those nice ideas with little connection to “real life.”
Hmmm … I wonder. What if we Friends re-envisioned our life together as a laboratory for transformation? What if community was a training ground to tutor us in the graces of Christian love and fellowship? Maybe, then, we might become more than clusters of individuals who get along. We might even find ourselves at home and making space for others to do the same.