Sunday, October 7, 2007

MOVING TOWARD COMMUNITY

THE PROMISE OF COMMUNITY. Whether my daily work has been primarily from within the church or with an initiative directly serving urban neighbors, the movement is the same: moving toward community. Community is the way and the purpose. It is not a place so much as it is a way of relating, of caring, of belonging, of seeing, of linking arms in common concern and neighborly purpose. Community is both the promise of the authentic church and the telos of the best in urban neighborhood development. Without moving toward community, neither the church nor community infrastructures will be healthy or healing.

CHURCH & COMMUNITY MATRIX. My journey at the matrix of church and community over the past twenty years has yielded more than a few insights and learnings. Some gleanings are so obvious I couldn't help but "get it." Some lessons come via the school of hard knocks. Others have been subtly discerned.

BEGINNING A CONVERSATION. The following list certainly isn't exhaustive, but there's enough behind each pithy statement for an extended conversation among all who seek to be faithful to church and community. I list them in brief, however, to begin that very conversation.


Take the community into your heart. Make room for it.


Parish and ministry is far beyond the congregation and those who attend or who can be numbered.


Keep in mind that community is a dynamic, sometimes messy process often fueled by crises.


Community tends to thrive when information is abundant, available, accessible and visible.


Work at connecting people to one another and to readily available resources.


Clarify and often revisit your urban hopes and dreams with the congregation, neighbors, and larger community.


Identify the unique roles of a particular ministry or congregation in the community mix.


Expect community resources to be fragile and sometimes unhealthy.


Expect to be asked to lead where you have not led before.


Address community structures and systems so that families, congregations and schools can become whole.


Look for opportunities for synergy and synthesis.


Let grace do its work in the disruptions, the uncontrollable and the unexpected.

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