Friday, November 4, 2011

community.

 {photo via Bippity Boppity Boo}

Last Sunday, as lunch was dying down, we sat around the table, and we talked about community. 

And we wondered: How do you stop talking about it and start living it? 

Community has become this buzzword in Christian circles and maybe outside them; there are books and blogs and sermons devoted to this idea of living together in harmony, of creating an atmosphere where people mix and mingle and live and serve one another authentically. And we love talking about it, love analyzing it, love cutting it open and apart, and then we just leave it on the table, never really doing anything with it. 

I’m not saying I want to start some compound where I live within walking distance of all the people I love. I’m not advocating homeschooling over public-schooling or some imaginary safe-world over the real one. 

But I am wondering why I can’t — or don’t — invite my friends and neighbors over for supper. I’m wondering why the people I love are spread out over a town that’s not even that very big, resulting in occasional, pre-scheduled gatherings. I’m wondering why everyone’s just so darn busy all the time. 

I’m wondering what a simple life really looks like, what authentic community looks like, and I’m wondering: Do we really want it? 

Just like anything else worth having, I’m assuming community takes work. And I think it’s easier to sit around and moan and groan about it, about how we’re missing it, about how we’re just not fitting, not getting it. It’s easier to talk about it than to do it. 

In the past week, I’ve had four separate conversations with friends — all 20-somethings, some with children, some without, some married, some not — and we’re all in agreement: Something is missing. One friend thinks the solution might be a prayer group, a Bible study with an emphasis on confession and fellowship. Another thinks we need to move closer together, to share neighborhoods and homes with each other. Another references her time in Italy as inspiration for what she wants now. One brave friend acknowledges something is missing, but also acknowledges: She doesn’t have time or effort or energy to go about fixing the problem. 

I want community. When Jordan and I have a crockpot full of soup on the stove, I want to be able to call up our friends and say, “Have you eaten yet? We have extra!” I want intense, meat-y Bible study. I want a handful of people (I have always been a handful-of-people kind of person, not a multitudes kind of person) who I can trust and confide in, and admittedly: I’d like those people to be close. I’d like them to be here, not miles away, unable to eat my food or share my couch. I want friends who have babies and friends who don’t. I want single friends and married friends. I want friends who are different from me, but deep down, I want us to be the same. 

The answer to all of this is eluding me. I cannot find it. I do not know, and I do not like not knowing. 

So I’m focusing on what I do know. 

I know that I have three or four good friends, excellent friends, who I can send prayer requests to and confide in via email. 

I know that with some advance planning, I can have dinners and lunches and nights spent talking on the couch with those I love who live right here. 

I know that for me, community includes family, and that is a blessing. 

I know that I have girls in a book club I love, know that there are couples like me who are at least trying to make community happen, even in the tiniest of ways. 

Here is the thing: I am content. This life is good, and despite a year that has been full of changes for a lot of our friends (moving and pregnancies and life), we still have a community. We have people who love us and friends who mean something to us. Our life is full. 

I am content, but I don’t want to be neutral. I don’t want to be apathetic or careless with community. I want to be reaching for more, for better, for the things we dream about at the dinner table but forget about as the hours pass. 

As this year draws to a close, I’m going to be thinking on these things. I’m going to be praying about what 2012 might hold for us, how community might look if we talked a little less and did a little more. 

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. In your homes and in your families and in your towns, do you have community? What does that look like to you? Do your neighbors come over to eat? Do you find community mostly in your church or outside it? Do you have small groups or planned fellowships, or does it just kind of happen? (And if that’s the case, please: Tell me how.) 

I feel like I haven’t said all I want to on this subject, but it’s a start. I’m hoping you’ll fill in some of the blanks. 

12 comments:

our home to yours said...

communities happen here too, on-line. with my family and friends spread all across the eastern seaboard, facebook is community to me. I even get to be a part of the lives of my far away cousins, and great-neices and nephews, families I never got to spend time with when we were in the same state. a community is however we make it.
Debbi
-ourhometoyours

Brunella Z. said...

In Italy lives an ancient words (detto italiano). Tutte le strade portano a Roma. all the roads bring to Rome. This words has vithin a wise meaning.
Qualsiasi cosa deciderai sarà scegliere la strada migliore per te e tuo marito, in ogni caso ti porterà a Roma. Whatever you decide will choose the best "walking" for you and your husband, in any case you arrive to Rome. I hope this message is wright.
Be blessed dear Annie (and hubby)
Brunella

chet said...

Prophetic community, like that of Acts 2, that is a witness to the God-intended world can only happen when the people can imagine that the alternative God-intended world is better than this one. It is interesting that in order to imagine it, they already devoted themselves to intense prayer. Meal-sharing (and property-sharing!) is how it happened. And confession was the only way to sustain it. All through the holy spirit.

I'm not sure what 21st century community looks like (I'm not sure it looks any different than 1st century community either) but in order to be prophetic, I think those things are essential.

Elizabeth Dean said...

I think most of my community is from people at FSU. I spend the most amount of time with them and, to be honest, I think they 'get' me more than others do at church or in other social arenas of my life.

There's also something to be said that these are the people who call and invite me to things. They seem to want me around much more than other groups of people who for busy-ness or distance or other, better, closer friends don't really need me that much. So I suppose I have plenty of community. However, very little of it has anything to do with Timberlane.

Cindy said...

I find it interesting that your generation and ours are both being led to community. We have the same discussions here in Alabama with our friends. We live in the country, but Jackie and Corey are in Philadelphia and moved to live close to their friends from church. They are in a row home neighborhood and can walk to their friends' houses, meet for coffee around the corner, and walk to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner. Community is much easier when you live in one.

Sabrina said...

I think community works when it is stable at the core and flexible around the edges. So you have this core of commonality and then room for growth, new and old, and change. I have had the best experiences when there is an initial planned community that became a necessity in my life. The thing about community is you can't really picture it because it's so dynamic and changeable. Currently my cohort is my main community, I also have ever changing community at church that is needed. A fond community memory was back in undergrad when about 10 of us from the church group squeezed in an SUV and went to the fair. In my head that sums up what I want in community. Numbers, diversity, laughter, fun, randomness, and closeness! Nice post!

Sara said...

Totally with you here. We've tried different things the past few years with mixed results. Currently, we have started a twice a month dinner group. People RSVP the week before and every other Monday, a family (or group of friends) volunteers to host. Meals are simple and it's a come and go affair...and so far, it is really awesome. We don't have all the logistics worked out, but it was nice to jump and just do something. Thanks for sharing!

Kristin @ The Chronicles of Kristin said...

LOVE this post. I've thought very similar things and like you, I just didn't know. I felt like there was something missing... like I didn't see community anywhere and I longed for it deeply. So I started praying about it... and all of a sudden, I started finding it, like God just drew back the curtains for me. I have a community group through the church group I've been attending for the past year and some change. We all live in the same general area... meet at each others homes bi-weekly to eat dinner together, share life, sing and pray together and to just encourage each other with what God's doing in their lives. We go out to a nearby funeral home once a month as a group. Sometimes we gather our money to help one of our neighbors or take food to them when we know they need someone to show they care. It's been really great for me to interact with so many people who want the same type of life- one of knowing Christ, serving like Christ and sharing His name for His glory. It's a beautiful thing.

I know a 20-something guy who will send out random open Facebook invitations for people to gather at his house just to pray and sing and be in the presence of God together. I know a family who invited 20-somethings into their home weekly to eat dinner, hang out, talk and play games. I know that while I don't see my neighbors very often at all- like you said, everyone's so busy all the time... the neighbors and myself- last winter I took the time to shovel the snow out of their driveway while they were at work so they wouldn't have to deal with it later that night. I know my father mows beyond our yard many times. I think all of this is a manifestation of God building and moving His people to better living out community.

I know I still have a long way to go, but like you, I'm thinking about it. Right now I think for me it's going to mean saying no to opportunities to work and do in favor of reaching out to the people God has placed in my life... spending time with friends, with family, people in my community and serving them as Jesus served them.

My pastor just spoke on the Church serving as Jesus served and who we serve (the Church and the community we live in), why and what that sometimes looks like. It was good and if you want to check it out, you can at http://living-church.com/#/gatherings/talks . It's the most recent in the Juice series.

Annie said...

i've found it difficult to find authentic, substantial community, particularly within the church. and i think part of this is because i have a wanderer's soul, and experience has taught me it's better to hide one's real self, so that when the leaving happens, it's less painful. i don't agree with that, but it's generally how i function.

i've been thinking recently about why this seems to be different in the blog world, why, in a season where i have put many friendships on hold so that i can take care of my academic and career-y responsibilities and still scrape up a semblance of sleep, i have still been on twitter a lot. and i realized - friendships, to me, in the blog world, are different, because i think we feel freer to be open. if someone judges us, we don't know it, unless they leave a comment. and if they do, it does hurt, but they're not somebody we have to see the next day or the next week or, really, ever.

a group of us are starting a bible study monday - you may have seen meg and i and others tweeting furiously about it - and i am so hoping that it's different than the others of which i've been a part. i'm hoping that, borne out of the authenticity we participants have maintained on our blogs, this group will be more authentic than the others i've known. and if, in the process, i learn anything about community - and i imagine i will - i will let you know, because i think you and i are both wrestling with this and other similar and related questions. i love hearing your thoughts on this - they inform, clarify, and motivate my own.

and i think this is a little glimpse of that community we so earnestly seek.

Four Flights said...

we have finally built a community, but it was a long time coming. and for us, it started after we had kids and I joined a rather large moms group, but from that found like minded woman that had husbands that my husband also liked :) We also lived on a street before we lived in this house where 2 of our neighbors became our best friends and still are. Luckily we live only 5 minutes away still. When we were all on the same street, the easy breezy community came much easier. We would meet for walks as one family was passing by and ran down to each others houses to drop off the kids for an hour while one ran errands. Now we have to plan a bit more but we still make it work. It takes effort, it takes putting yourself out there. It takes last minute texts and not being afraid to reach out. I finally love the place we are with our friendships. I love spontaneity in community and you only get that with close proximity, so I hear what you're saying. Good luck my friend, it's something to always strive for. We humans need a little help from our friends ;)

Ashley said...

I have enjoyed browsing through your blog this morning, love your book reviews...makes me wanna go pick up a good book and read! Community is such a hard concept to grasp these days.....no longer do people stop in just to say hi anymore, and bring supper to new neighbors. It seems as if we, as Christians, keep our "community" tucked in safe within the Church walls. We must remember Jesus didn't spend all of His time on earth with the righteous, but with the lost, and so we too, must break out into the communities around us and share His love with all. While still drawing nourishment for our community of believers :)

Keri said...

i know i'm late in commenting (a bit behind on my blog-reading), but i just wanted to say that this post is EXACTLY my thoughts on community. I don't have much of that in my life, and I've really regretted the lack of it. i'm starting the next chapter of my life soon...moving out, getting a "real" job...and hoping to cultivate community then. i don't think community comes naturally in this day and age but instead has to be created and nurtured by its members. or maybe it was always that way?

i'm tempted to think that the lack of community in their lives is why a lot of people start blogging.