Friday, July 14, 2006

Community is Hard

I feel like I need to put some context around yesterday's post.

I'll be honest. I really debated whether or not I wanted to post it and how to do it. I didn't want it to seem like a woe is me, pity party post, so I just posted the facts of what happened. I didn't want it to be those things because I didn't feel bad about what happened. I was interested in the fact that it did happen.I think the comments that followed were the most interesting part. People tend to gravitate to people like them. I really noticed this when I was teaching highschool and most of the African-American kids sat together and most of the Caucasian kids sat together, which made me wonder what MLK died for, but that's another post for another day. People tend to be with people they are comfortable with, but we also tend to not notice certain things when we're busy.

Wednesday night, I know that many people walked by me because they were dealing with kids and getting them their food and getting them settled to eat. Also, many of my closer friends were not there that night... I don't remember any of the the singles being there and people I know well weren't. And that's what made it all the more interesting. And to be perfectly fair, I know stories on the opposite end of the spectrum are true. People who have come to Otter Creek knowing no one and being welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, I also hear a lot of stories like Anonymous' from yesterday too.

To become community is hard and takes hard, hard work. You have to sacrifice time and convenience and the easiness of things to make a community. It tends to be harder for me and Sheryl living on the west side of town (Memphis, as BST calls it), when most of the people we know are either in the Brentwood area, close to church or even scattered to other parts of Nashville, which makes those other times when we're together, either at a fellowship dinner or in worship, that much more important. It's a call for those who are more shy to open up some and take some chances and those who are more gregarious to do approach those people who may seem out of the fold and engage them. And that may mean sitting with your kids at a crowded table, or sitting with someone else's kids at a crowded table, or driving across town to be with people you might not know well, or going next door to be with someone you might not know well.

For my Kingdom class, I'm looking at Jesus' Kingdom parables, and the one that has stuck out to me is the parable of the Great Banquet or Feast, told in Matthew 22 and Luke 14. Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being like a feast that all are invited to, that those who are on the margins can join in God's feast, in God's party, but we have to be inviting to others and welcoming of people outside of our circle.

After 30 minutes of sitting by myself, I went with Doug Sanders over to a family that I didn't know, who don't look much like anyone else at Otter Creek. I learned about a recovery program that the sister and daughter of one of our members is helping conduct. I learned about trying to get some money from the government to keep some things open and I met 5 new people that I didn't know when I sat down.

Community is hard, but it's the Kingdom of God in action. And if we're not about the Kingdom, we're just sitting on pews feeling good about ourselves.


philip said...

This is a tough issue. Is our church really the "hospital" model we say it is? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I don't think I come to assemblies or gatherings with our congregation often enough with that attitude of ministry. My attitude should be that of a minister just as much as the one being ministered to. (Not that I've got the trusty MDiv or anything, but you get the point I hope...)

I think we have been poisoned with this idea that when we enter into a church building, whether it be an assembly or a fellowship dinner, we should be serviced. Sure there are going to be sick people as well as doctors, but we might do well do remember that we are both doctor and patient at times. The truth is in family settings, you often treat your family worse than anyone you run into. Our church family is sadly no different.

I'm not sure how confortable I am with the idea of going to church to "get re-energized." In my mind it instantly sets me in a condition of readiness to be served. I have to constantly remind myself that ministry opportunities abound inside the church building.

I have very limited wisdom, so all of these thoughts are my best interpretations of Christ-love in a local church setting. I'd love to hear what some of you wiser folks have to say.

DJG said...

This is the reason I skip many "fellowship meals"....I can't eat alone at home.

fabricsnob said...

Phil--I haven't visited your blog in a while and I'm so glad I caught this and the previous post. You've nailed an issue many of us Singles speak of frequently regarding relationships within our own Life group and the church body as a whole. While I fully accept that it is my responsibility to include myself in group functions, to try to stretch myself and be outgoing, I wonder why it isn't easier. OC is a "friendly" church. It's actually a point of pride for most of us, I think. Yet so many people I talk to have had experiences exactly like yours. For many of us, it's only the security of one or two relationships that keeps us from becoming so hurt by those experiences that we go elsewhere. I was extremely surprised to read Tony and Clarissa's responses to the previous posts... I never imagined our unhospitality to be so pervasive. And yet, I'm not really surprised. But I'm sad. I don't know how to fix it either. I want to, I know it starts with me, and in the same breath I'm going to tell you I am lazy and lack the motivation to do this. Why is reaching out so hard?

I think about the church at L-boro a lot on Sunday mornings. Their sense of community was so complete in my eyes. What a contrast to the way I feel at OC lately.

Also, spot on, Phillip.

With love, Melody

ps- Most of us Singles weren't at OC because it was Camp Night. FYI.

Jim said...

Community is a hard thing to make happen no matter how much the church and the members put into it. Our church does "special interest groups" where people with common interests discover each other and do thing together and volunteer opportunities. (Aside: there's a motorcycle group that does tours all over the countryside and a target shooting group we humorously refer to as "Guns for Jesus." :D As a true control freak, I'm on the parking team, constantly telling people where to go.)

But how well it works depends on the people who put the groups together and how willing they and each of us are to step outside of our comfort zone and get to know someone new. Sometimes they work out and you make new friends but all too often they don't simply because (other) people are strange.

But there can also be a calmness and a true peace in going inside and grabbing a seat and just being there and not having to socialize.

Opportunities to minister or be a shining example abound no matter where we are.

Template Designed by Douglas Bowman - Updated to Beta by: Blogger Team
Modified for 3-Column Layout by Hoctro