Each summer at Pilgrimage (the church I serve), we explore a theme. This year’s theme is “Growing Deeper into Community.” We’ve explored the theme of community before, but this time around we’ll go deeper. We’ll look at how to become more deeply committed to providing comfort to its members and to reaching out to share God’s love with those outside the community.
As I reflect on leading congregants in growing deeper in community, I’ll be reading and blogging about Jean Vanier’s book, Community and Growth. In 1964, with Fr. Thomas Philippe, Vanier started an intentional community where intellectually disabled adults and persons with able bodies and minds would live together. They named the community l’Arche, The Ark. There now are L’Arche communities around the globe.
I’m reading the revised edition of Community and Growth, which was published in 1989. Far from being dated, everything I’ve read thus far describes very much what I see and sense from church members and others today about the desire to feel connected to a community.
In the Introduction, Vanier writes: “Today…people are crying out for authentic communities where they can share their lives with others in a common vision, where they can find support and mutual encouragement, where they can give witness to their beliefs and work for greater peace and justice in the world–even if they are also frightened of the demands of community” (3).
People long for the kind of community Vanier describes, but I find increasingly that most folks don’t really know how to create or even participate in the kind of community for which they long. Vanier: “Most people seem to believe that creating community is a matter of simply gathering together under the same roof a few people who get on reasonably well together or who are committed to the same ideal. The result can be disastrous! Community life isn’t simply created by either spontaneity or laws. Some precise conditions have to be met if this life is to deepen and grow through all the crises, tensions and ‘good times.’” Community and Growth invites reflection on some of those conditions.
If you long to grow deeper into one of the communities of which you are part, I invite you to join me in reflecting on Vanier’s book. If you choose to read the book, as well–all the better!
ALSO: This week on On Being, Krista Tippett will interview Jean Vanier. Here’s a link to the interview: http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234#.VWhez2fJA5t To learn more about Jean’s important work, visit his website: http://www.jean-vanier.org/en/home