Word of the Week

Tending to Community Life

One of the reasons that I keep saying that I'm proud to be the Pastor of Washington Plaza and will continue to say this is because of how intentional it is with its community life. It is a group of people gathered on Sundays and at other times that actually know each other.

I've been to churches where I've walked in and walked out and no one has spoken to me. I've been a member of churches where I attended for years and there were still people who I sat alongside in the pews who still thought I was a first time guest.

I dare say that such statements are not true at Washington Plaza.

Yet, as we continue to be about the work of strengthening our community life, I know we will find that the work will grow harder and harder. Community, the kind where you know me and I know you can be anti what our natural human and cultnewmonasticism_coverural tendencies are.

I was encouraged this week through reading a book called New Monasticism: What it Has to Say to Today's Church by one of my seminary classmates, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Though our church community has not made the choice to live in intentional Christian community like Jonathan and the others at the Rutba House in Durham, NC have, we still are seeking to live together as a church family.

I thought this passage might be particularly helpful to thinking more about what we are doing. Jonathan writes:

Best I can figure, community is a lot like a garden. Somehow there's always work to be done-- dishes to wash, meetings to go to, prayers to pray, meetings to go to, laundry to wash, meetings to go to, meals to prepare . . . and more meetings to go to. After you've sat through a few hundred meetings and heard the same people say more or less the same things over and over again, you are tempted to think, 'I know what this community needs. If they would just listen to me, we could get with more important things.' But it never works. Because, as with a garden, you can't make community grow. All you can do is tend to a culture of grace and truth by listening to every voice, loving people who frustrate you, telling the truth as best you can, and doing the dishes.

The great temptation in community life is to imagine that our life together is not like a garden but like a repair shop. . . .  They figure out what is wrong, get the parts they need, tinker around under the hood and fix it. . . . Now I have to tell the truth: it doesn't take long in community to realize that people are broken and in need of repair. And the minute you realize this, you're liable to think, 'I can name this person's problem better than they can. Maybe I can fix her.' You do this because you love her, of course and want her to be better. . . . The problem is that people aren't like cars. We aren't made to run just fine on our own. And the repair shop won't do, because we were made for life in a garden. And the only way to grow up into life in a garden is to get into your roots and stay there."

And to this I say, Amen. Let's us all continue to work together in the garden.