Communal Hope

IMG_5416Rob and I spent some time chatting with LMU students last night about Creation Care. Officially, he and I were speakers on the topic for a “Theology on Tap” gathering. But, as seems to continally be the case, I found that as we ministered, so we received blessings tenfold.

These young men and women were mostly seniors in college–about seven or eight years younger than me. They are filled with a vibrancy and hope that inspired both of us.  I am finding that as I speak to more and more people, it becomes clear that the ideas are out there. The motivation and desire exist.  Most people just need one or two things: a little direction, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their journey. This is why I am so passionate about speaking on Creation Care–not because I have an abundance of knowledge to impart, but rather to give people a reason to come together. As we share ideas, talk about what one another is doing, and make connections, we build a network of support for one another.

Which leads me to comment on the thought that has been turning over and over in my head throughout the last three weeks of this quarter: the lynchpin of all sustainable Christian movements is communty.

True community is sorely lacking in many of our most foundational Christian gathering places.  We seem to get very comfortable in the way things have always been, and are anxious when we consider things being different. What if we really knew the people in our parish–really knew them? What if we extended our boundaries beyond Sunday Mass or meeting with fellow parents in the school parking lot, and decided to try to model the early Church of Acts? I’m speaking mostly to my Catholic brethren now, because this is the community with which I have the most familiarity. My experience at Fuller has taught me that there is much we can learn from some of our brothers and sisters in certain Protestant denominations.

I had a class last quarter with a young man (he couldn’t have been over 24 years old) who had formed a group of about fifty people within his church. They decided to be a type of “emergency ministry.”  Any time a person in their congregation had a personal emergency–a woman’s transmission suddenly blew out, or a father lost his job unexpectedly, or a family didn’t know how to pay for a child’s school supplies–they went to this group of people. Everything was out in the open and nothing was secret. The person would talk about the problem with the group, and they would find a way to help. The natural checks and balances within the community kept the system sustainable; since everyone saw eachother at least once a week, people could continue to see how the person was doing as the emergency passed. Likewise, the person knew two things: they could depend on the community and that they were responsible for how they responded to the gift. The young man described great success with this program and told us that it did bring the church community much closer in their support of one another in time of need.

I tell you this story because I believe it shows the importance of community in our Christian lives. Often we look at the problems of the secular world and feel overwhelmed. How do we counter a culture of overconsumption and spiritual starvation? The answer, I believe, lies in community. We must break free of the idea that we need to “go it alone” or accomplish everything as individuals. In community we are stronger, and in community we can accomplish more through our combined gifts than we ever could on our own.

Back to the idea of our experience at LMU last night. Forming a small community–even for a moment–was just one example of how we might support one another as we seek change in our world. I think that every opportunity should be taken to do this. It may be for one night, it may be for a whole year. But forming community and supporting one another is essential. We cannot live out Christianity in solitude. That’s just not how it works.

Thank you, LMU students, for giving me more to think about–and for giving me more hope. I am continually amazed and grateful for the potential that God has placed in each of us. Think of what we can do with that potential….together.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ProudHusband on October 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I couldn’t agree more with my wife. What an amazing opportunity we were given to share and learn from a wonderful group of students. Last night, we kept touching on to the idea of relationships and interconnectedness being the key to a sustainable movement. We talked about forming relationships with the people who produce our food, with our environment, with animals–but one of the most important relationships we form is with each other in fellowship. Decisions made in community are, by design, more mindful of the consequences and connections of our actions, because we are called to think beyond how something affects only me. It puts us into a place of awareness and sensitivity to the ripples of our choices.

    Reply

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