Kenneth L Mills
Maybe now is not the time to talk about it, since we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We have restricted gatherings, face masks, and avoiding sitting too close together has all of us a bit confused, if not paranoid. But, how do we experience community in this strange time in which we find ourselves?
Yes, we have the infamous Zoom or online meetings to see the faces of our group. We do have some worship experiences together, though restricted in numbers, and most personal interactions are limited to speaking through a mask. There is the ongoing “information exchange” taking place in both online Bible studies and worship services. But does the transference of knowledge constitute community?
Recently I have been musing about our use of words. For example, in Matthew 28 Jesus states to His followers, “…as you are going, make disciples…” Even the translation “as you are going” tends to hint of a community togetherness or experience. Jesus seems to suggest that community is a radical part of life or the journey together. Of course, we refer to this as discipling, and correctly so. However, the component that we are missing in our pandemic days seems to be community.
We understand that community is not a place or an organization, nor is it an exchange of information over the internet. Brian Solis stated, “Community is much more than belonging to something. It’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.” To be in a real community, you need to be doing something together that is worth doing and makes belonging to that community matter.
Rabbi Harold Kushner tells the story of two children. He writes:
I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy, and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work, by the water’s edge, building an elaborate sandcastle with gates and towers and moats and internal passages.
Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand.
I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.
I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh.
So, here is my feeble attempt at helping us develop community in the middle of this pandemic storm:
1. Remember the words of Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
2. Be a “cheerleader” for at least one other person struggling in these days of uncertainty and isolation.
3. Find two or three other friends with whom you can share these days, and if possible, in person and face to face.
Leonard Sweet said (somewhere and some time ago), “Our duty is not to see through one another but to see one another through.
May God bless you as you continue on this journey in these strange days.