I have found myself thinking more and more about the nature of community. I am passionate about it. I long to see communities thrive throughout the country, where people not only know there is poverty on their street but they act on it, however this might look – giving a lasagne every now and then, allowing use of your internet and many more.
This is not something we see yet, and how would it even happen? There comes a point where it can look like we are just giving ‘charity’ to our neighbours, this is not community. In community each person has a role, it is something they offer. If we are forever giving to others without thinking they can really give back it is an unbalanced community.
As church we are very good at giving, in time, money, food etc but how good are we at drawing people who are different, who we don’t relate to, into community with us on an equal footing. I have been thinking about this and wondering, how do we give – as is necessary – whilst also creating opportunity for true community to develop?
Recently I have had a couple of arguments with friends, as happens in any environment with a hot head like me, and it hit me. The problem, each time, was an absence of communication. This goes two ways, how we talk and how we listen. This is just simply ‘good conversation’.
This is where the title comes into play. In these arguments that I have had I have found that one of the big problems I have encountered in myself, is my determination to act out my individualism and not respect their individuality. I want to be able to be independent and free to live MY life and I want them to do what I expect and make my life easier. There is no understanding of the fact that to truly live in community I need to put aside what would make ME happy, look at who THEY are and then talk AND listen to see how together we can create a system that works.
I have found this challenging, it might be that many of you already do this incredibly well, but I am a very good talker. I can talk your ear off very happily. I interrupt, shout and generally create a lot of noise. I do not listen nearly as well.
The challenge comes on how to start, having had this realisation, to put it into practice. Where should there be community? My house and street are obvious, my church, but how do I do this with people who I don’t really want to be around?
I am reading ‘Finding Sanctuary’ and this has given me a huge amount of information on this. One of the things that struck me the most was that often, in the creation of real community, there is the initial high of new meetings, then hate, and then you get to relationships that are built on mutual understanding and good conversation. How many of us give up at hate?
I think this is a challenge for both personal lives and churches. How do we include those that we don’t have much in common with, disrupt the service, create upset or get angry in our community? This is something that we all need to learn. Love is not always nice. Community is not all about getting our own way and living happily ever after. We need sacrifice to create that environment.
Now I just have to go and do it. Please pray!