Community

One of my favourite commentators on community is Jean Vanier.  In case you haven’t heard of him, he is a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian and the founder of L’Arche, an international federation of group homes for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.  When he speaks about community, I am challenged and feel very moved to listen.

In his book ‘Community and Growth’, Jean Vanier states “A community becomes truly and radiantly one when all its members have a sense of urgency in their mission.  There are too many people in the world who have no hope.  There are too many cries which go unheard.  There are too many people dying in loneliness.  It is when the members of the community realise that they are not there simply for themselves or their own sanctification, but to welcome the gift of God, to hasten his Kingdom and to quench the thirst in parched hearts through their prayer and sacrifice, love and acts of service, that they will truly live community.”

It is a grand quote, a bold statement.  But it is also, in my opinion, absolutely spot on and I love it!  Today I was blessed to be able to welcome people into church for a community event – a production of the musical Annie.  Some incredibly talented children, along with their families, came together for 3 hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to demonstrate their talents.

In welcoming people,  I said I was all too aware of all that is required to make these things happen – all the behind the scenes things that are so important, but not always visible.  Parents and community members had been involved in marketing and PR, poster design, ticket design, face-painting, costume design, catering, cleaning, and of course helping the children to learn their lines and know their parts.

It was a pleasure to see community groups join together to make this happen.  It was moving and powerful.  In addition to parents and community members, there was also the community centre, the local school, the church, the city council, and a music and drama company – representatives of which gave freely of their time and talents.

All of the people involved have a uniting passion – community.  Vanier said “A community becomes truly and radiantly one when all its members have a sense of urgency in their mission.”  The people I spoke to yearned for a deepening of community, for its members to know dignity, purpose, pride and hope.  Back to Vanier again, as he says “There are too many people in the world who have no hope.  There are too many cries which go unheard.  There are too many people dying in loneliness.  It is when the members of the community realise that they are not there simply for themselves or their own sanctification, but to welcome the gift of God, to hasten his Kingdom and to quench the thirst in parched hearts through their prayer and sacrifice, love and acts of service, that they will truly live community.”

No one was there for themselves or their own sanctification.  It wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about any other single person – important as it may have been to recognise, acknowledge and thank all the individuals involved.  It was about community and purpose and a group of kids singing and acting their hearts out.

I’m tired today, but a nice tired.  I feel satisfied, peaceful, and humbly grateful to a loving God who blessed this event.  Lord, may you continue to deepen community, to strengthen the connections we make, to make yourselves known to us and lead us into truth, hope and light. And Lord, help those whose lives are filled with all those things that break community – bitterness, resentment, hurts, lost hope.  Amen

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