Here we are again. Lent.
Another wilderness, or is it the same one? Wandering and wondering. In 2013, I joined several friends for an interesting Rethink Church experiment…to blog through Lent.
“Every Sunday, we’ll post a theme that we’re asking you to sit with that week. As you think about the questions and images revealed in that theme, share them with us on social media using the # for that week. Perhaps you’ll share a photo of how that topic speaks to you. Whatever it is, we hope these 40 days of Lent will be a time to open your eyes and heart to what’s already at work around you.”
Welcome to the conversation. (Be sure to check out the other bloggers listed at the end of this post.)
This week’s question(s):
“What are the basic needs in your community? How might you participate in meeting those needs?”
Though at first blush these may seem like complex and complicated questions, the answers are quite simple. Hair salons. What my community needs more of are houses of hair. Or car washes. Those are sprouting up with great regularity in the neighborhoods I consider part of my community. Oh, and liquor stores/gas stations. These are clearly in great demand as their proliferation attests. The basic needs of my community boil down to: the need to be pampered, polished, and numbed and to have it all delivered in the most convenient ways.
To be fair there is also a new fast(ish) food pizza chain, a large hotel, and a senior living community also being built in my community. So if I were to gauge what my community needs based on what is being delivered/built in my community, I might see a larger picture of the need for community.
An artificial community created at a hotel. A temporary community created at a senior living complex. A communal space to gather to break bread(sticks) together.
You see what my community needs on the most basic level is community. Community defined not by geography. Community that is more than a region or a place on the map. Community as in relationship. People who do life together.
Though I’m not certain I’ve watched an entire episode, this is the beautiful play on words captured by the title of the sitcom “Community“. A community college where the students and teachers form a community. A place. A set of relationships.
So as I sat with the clipper buzzing around my ears, I talked with my stylist who has been a personal friend of mine for longer than 90% of the relationship in my life. I know her kids and she knows mine. I know her wedding anniversary and what her Christmas looked like. She’s cut my hair on my deck when I couldn’t get my schedule to work into her salon schedule. We tried to watch her compete in a dance recital (couldn’t find the studio, so we ultimately missed out). So as I sat in the pneumatic chair at this the fifth (maybe sixth?) salon we’ve followed her to, we shared bits of our lives, snippets of struggles and triumphs, the joys and sorrows of parenting, the plans and the dreams that make up life.
This is where I come in. I can seek out and support such environments. I’ll follow my stylist to this new salon, because I like the way she cuts my hair and because she is my fiend, but also because if this salon succeeds, there is another place for community to happen. My support will add to the support of others and this salon can flourish.
More directly, I have a unique role in creating space for community through my work as a pastor. I have the opportunity to encourage others to form community even as I lead by example and start/maintain gatherings of community. This has looked like facilitating small groups. It has more often been more a getting together for a meal or conversation. And in a hyper-connected world where we have email in our pockets and social media always beeping at us, we really need these connections. Not the surface voyeurism of a facebook, but the stuff that happens when folks come together (even if that coming together is via facebook/facetime/skype/etc.). What is important is the level of interaction. The depth of the conversation. The willingness to know and be known.
Even as I write these words, a friend has stopped by the office. The next thing I know, I’m learning about the books she likes to read, the way she likes to spend her time (and some past struggle with giving herself permission to enjoy reading for the fun of it). We talk about personality and motivations. We talk family. I learn about a great gift her husband has given her. We dip below the surface of “How are you? Fine.” We make plans for lunch. We go back to our days. We have been enriched by the experience. We have come to know each other more deeply. We have cared for one another and been present in a way we both need.
What my community needs is real community. How I can help meet the need is to participate in and create opportunities for such community to occur. I can be interruptible, and when appropriate, an interruption.
Life is better together,