At its core, I believe that Christianity is a communal faith.

It's a committment to a lifestyle that none of us can choose to live alone.

We need exhortation, correction and support from one another not only to know God more fully, but to stay on the often difficult path we call discipleship.

Creating community is what the church is all about.

We gather together each week for worship because believe that somehow together we are much better off than alone.

We share meals together in social halls because we believe there is something about shared fellowship that makes us stronger.

We study scripture together because we trust that in reading holy texts with other ears around the table we see God more clearly.

But, I'm always interested in how faith communities are formed outside the walls of organized religion.

Lesson one-- Christian community can be built, literally.

dad and sonAt Christmas time, Kevin and I have spent the past week with family in South Georgia-- in a small town of all things Hagan.

It's a locale where my husband's family have lived for generations and everyone in his immediate family lives except us.

It's a home that includes two ponds, a pond house cabin, and homes for both my sister and brother in-law's families. It's a little piece of wonderful solitude to visit.

When first introduced to my future father-in-law when Kevin and I were dating I asked: "What are your hobbies?" It was a causal question meant to make conversation but his answer told me so much about what I would later come to love about him. "Well," he said, "I don't really have any hobbies other than the fact that I build things."

And it is true: Mr. Hagan is good at building things.

Though I know my mother-in-law wonders when it will all stop...

In the past several years, he's helped his grandson build a house, added a dock and gazebos to the pond outside his home (where our wedding was held by the way), added an outdoor kitchen to the pool, built a cabin affectionately known as "the pond house" as gathering space for groups and his latest project a shed for syrup making (see pictures below).

He does so for one reason: to bring people together.

Though he'd never say it in that way. It is just what he does.

He wants to make his homeplace a place for others to find joy.

And not just for his immediate family (though these people are important to him) but anyone you needs a place to be.

At a family dinner or when a group gathers for a party on his property, watch the twinkle in Mr. Hagan's eyes. He knows his sweat, efforts and financial investment has been worth it.

Community building, for him is not a one time thing but a lifestyle I've observed over these 7 years I've been associated with this family.

For example, this week a group of men from town gathered in the syrup making shed for the 4 hour process of making gallons and gallons of syrup (to be distributed and given to others in the area).

As we all stood around the big pot, I couldn't help but take a step back and soak in the wisdom of my teacher of a father-in-law.

There is nothing that brings him more joy than building things and seeing people enjoying what he has created.

God calls us into community.

God calls us to use our gifts whatever they may be to cultivate community. God calls us to welcome others into our daily space in the mystery called Christian community.

Some of us cook meals.

Others of us write blogs or author books.

Some of us coach sports teams.

And some of us even construct shelters.

And in all of these contributions, community is built.

And I have to think God looks on and says "it is very good." I am glad to have such good teachers as I keep learning.

20121229-231059.jpg