Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Community -- scary

Well, the church meeting last night went well. We have a big decision to make, and we did make progress toward a resolution. Step-by-step.

I continue to review the role of church in my life. I’m in a leadership role at this point, and it’s taking a lot of effort. Not so much human effort, since I’m a master delegator, but mental effort. Sometimes it’s like swimming through Jello.

An article in the most recent Relevant Magazine brought me some new ideas: “Plugging in: why community is hard to define and even harder to find.” In it, the author Cameron Conant asks his friend Ben Irwin what community is all about. Ben’s response:

“My mind first goes to what it’s not. I think we’ve thought that community is getting a bunch of strangers together in a small group to share their deepest, darkest secrets rather than a group of people who are on some level experiencing life together.”

People experiencing life together. Huh. Am I willing to let others into my life and to make myself available for them?

Cameron goes on to say, “My problem is that I want all the advantages of community and none of the obligations. Community is hard work. … Community is the slow marinade of experiences and personalities that refuses to be cooked on high for two minutes. Relationships take time.”

That slow marinade sometimes feels more like rotisserie. I have to check my impatience and witticisms at the door to make it through some of these meetings. I sacrifice myself, or what I conceptualize as my individual uniqueness, to participate in the harmony of the whole.

Cameron’s friend Ben also said, “There once wasn’t a sense of an individual apart from the community. Look at Paul’s description of the Church as a body—not each person as a body, but each person as a part of the body. When one part rejoices, the whole body rejoices; when one part suffers, the whole body suffers. We don’t know what that’s like.”

I’d say we share in each other’s joys more or less at my church, but we don’t often share in each others’ suffering. And this keeps the joy-sharing superficial. But the alternative scares me—do I really want to make myself available for the suffering of others, to really companion with them on *that* journey? I’m starting to realize, though, that’s it’s not community unless I do.

Losing a sense of self and opening up to genuine connection. Without those, there is no community. You may have a group of people who are working on something together, but no richness of caring or intimacy.

I think I want that richness. To get it, I’m going to have to face that which I fear. And I may find that community has been there all along.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 3/21/2006 07:51:00 AM, Anonymous moppo said...

What you say about the obligations of community are true enough. But these must all be in the context of your desire to be a part of that community. In other words, do you really want to be a member - or do you belong simply because you've always belonged? Sometimes we grow away from a particular community, or vice versa. Then it's time to move toward what your heart truly desires.

At 3/21/2006 09:46:00 AM, Anonymous Emily said...

You say: "But the alternative scares me—do I really want to make myself available for the suffering of others, to really companion with them on *that* journey?"

Aren't you already doing this through your practice, mi'ijita?

Aren't you already in the business of making yourself available for the suffering of others? People call you because they need somebody riding shotgun who knows how to read the map. You do that every day -- and I'm guessing you do it well, because if you didn't, the calls would stop coming.

Nothing scary about it ... just another day at the office. And if you think you can't handle it, your boss has got your back.

At 4/03/2006 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Kim said...

oohh this is good.
Community seems scary. We give up our privacy, risk compassion fatigue, open ourselves up to the messy business of connecting with more people than are probably on our Christmas list.

I think the assumption that we have to morph into someone we are not when we join community is largely not true. We expand who we are when we join community.

But, as Emily said in the comment above, (we are) probably already doing this.


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