Saturday, May 15, 2010

Community?

Following up on my last post, Thoughts of a Church Leaver. I find Alan Jamieson's two articles in Reality magazine very helpful. Read A Churchless Faith and In search of Turangawaewae and then come on back.

In the first article, Jamieson describes several categories of church-leavers (based on sociological research), and in the second he describes the groups that such church-leavers have often formed to replace the faith-communities they've left behind. I'm fully aware that these sociological categories are not absolute, as if every church-leaver must fall into one of these boxes, but I did find them helpful. I myself can relate to much in the "Reflective Exiles" category (but not all).

Bottom line, though, is that church-leavers do not prefer loner-status. They do desire to be part of a faith community, but for whatever reason (there are many) the church as they have known it no longer works for them.

I just mentioned the c-word: community. I kind of dislike that word, it seems so vague and trendy. In what is certainly a commentary on our times, it seems to have replaced the equally malleable word, family, as the label of choice to describe the church. And yet, for all our self-conscious striving after community, how little of it there really is.

I can honestly say that in nearly twenty years of steady church attendance (two churches) I have only experienced it for a very brief time. Solid relationships, which are surely the building blocks of community, have been quite rare. This may be because I'm a hard person to get along with, or it may be because people are just too busy, but my point is that "community" in the church is as much a will-o-the-wisp as it is in the world.

But I've not given up. I have this notion that a group a people who truly know and love one another, meeting in one another's homes, singing and praying together, is a real possibility.

More on all this in a future post.

Jamieson, btw, blogs at Prodigal Kiwi.

2 comments:

n. davis rosback said...

"I have this notion that a group a people who truly know and love one another, meeting in one another's homes, singing and praying together, is a real possibility."

i think if you pray for this, that it may be possible for a time.


i have come (for now) to a place of seeing the church as Spiritual connection.
and that believers are connected by and through the Holy Spirit.

that said, i think that what we see as groups are the appearance of what comes out of this connection of our spirits and the Holy Spirit.

we get as close as we can to what our connected spirits desire, as we are living in all these human bodies that are not connected, but, can only be in one place, with only so many people at a time.

no wonder we keep trying to find what we are looking for. no wonder what we think of as the church keeps changing. no wonder that when each new group forms, it can only be so good and for so long. no wonder that the groups can not meet all of our needs.

but...
i think that as we realize and think about what we are actually a part of, that we start to try less to find this human thing, and do more of just listening and following the Spirit...no matter where we are.

i know that this can feel lonely in some ways, yet, when one comes to this place, and stops to realize that we are travelers, without an earthly home, then everyone around you begins to look like that group that we have been looking for.
and we start to see Jesus in every face.
and we find some people to spend time with, so we feel less lonely.
that being with other people becomes something new indeed. when being with unbelievers, we see Jesus reaching out, and when we are with believers, we are with other spirits in the Body, and perhaps can see Jesus in their eyes as we look through ours.

the Sprit works in us and with us in ways that we do not understand, ways that make us a church of Christ, that is ever being changed, as our hearts are being changed. we must Trust that the Sprit is in control each day and will fill our need of this connection, and will bring a person or people into our life to help us through this time, this journey in our human form.

we can see it as a life alone in some ways human, yet, not at all alone in the Spirit.

Bob said...

Good stuff, Nancy. Thanks for taklng the time. I find a lot to chew on in this!