There are a lot of conversations, books, blogs, churches, and thoughts surrounding “authentic community”.
It is possibly THE single largest casualty of the post-industrial era, both the 20th and 21st centuries.
As a child, not that terribly long ago (winka-winka), my entire extended family would gather around my Grandfathers place on minor and major holidays, heck, for no reason other than that we loved each other a lot, and enjoyed being together. And in the process of this “Gathering”, other little known relatives would also show up from time to time, casualties of a boundless hospitality. There were Aunts and Uncles from Europe, from the south side of the tracks, from other states, and they came to us in an endless procession of mystery and intrigue. The accents, gifts, and story telling were something to remember for a life time.
And there was food, wonderful food, good conversation, lots of stories about relatives and situations that I’d never have known about had they not appeared, and had we not taken several afternoons to recline in the breezeway, sipping cokes. We were soon lost in some dark forest hearing told stories of horse thieves and Cossacks, brave men and lost sons. Some of these relatives came for extended, European-like holidays. Basically, they’d stay for nearly the entire summer. And in the process, we really connected.
There was a sense of being grounded, of being in a Legion of Loved Ones, that no matter what happened there were loving ones nearby to help you bear your burden. And then we had our church family. Talk about being blessed and not realizing it.
Today, I’m guessing, with the nature of work and our extraordinarily mobile society, we have to go to greater lengths to find this sense of community.
I talk to both my Mom and Sister very frequently, the telephone shrinks the great distance between us. It’s like having a back porch conversation in the dark. You know they are right there, although you can’t see them.
Many, many people today find “community” in places like public, or private, forums. Gathered together by common beliefs, causes, situations, they have found yet another way to circumvent the fractured life-style we’ve come to believe is normal.
And on these forums, where we’re more cloaked than ever, sitting on the ultimate “dark porch”, we secretly wonder why we fear revealing the true nature of ourselves, our deepest fears, or struggles.
No matter what things look like in North America, or the West in general, human beings are the ultimate herd animal. We’re made to be social, we actually need to be interacting with one another. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we know somewhere inside that we NEED to be connected in a deeper way, that without it we are not safe.
The reality is that today’s man or woman, working alone, separate from family, with only a handful of friends to call their own, is like an antelope happily grazing on the plains, completely unaware of the Lion that lurks in the tall grass.
And yet we fear coming together, with shame over things like divorce, alcoholism, depression or loneliness.
To be gathered together at the foot of the cross, open, honest, and forgiven, is where authentic community begins.