September 9, 2008

Church and Community

Yeah, I have to post this. I left this comment on Michael Spencer's blog, iMonk. Michael's NOT into "house church" but his (Aug 27th) post was titled, "The Frank Viola Project (And Why You Should Take It Seriously)". I really enjoyed reading it and then, around comment 28 or so, Michael himself confessed how individualistic catholic and protestant services are, and asked for input about anyone who's really living out COMMUNITY. So here's what I said:
iMonk, thanks for a great post and conversation. Your question about mass and community is what I’d like to respond to. [Btw, I grew up Episcopalian and then did house church for ten years.]

The commenter who said Knights of Columbus gave a perfect example. My Catholic grandfather was born in the 1920’s when you could literally walk around the city in a day. He’s been a lifelong member of Kiwanis too. I saw somewhere recently an article about how community service organizations have been replaced by ‘activity groups’ like the Sierra Club. Wealth and sprawl seem to multiply individualism, and I think a lot of the present day emphasis on “community” is because the natural American experience of it has genuinely faded away over the past 50 to 100 years.

Then you have my parents, who still attend an Episcopalian service but their “community” as they see it is their lifelong friends and family members, nearly all of whom happen to be at least nominal christians of various (high church) protestant denominations. Then of course they have the network of local connections that not only bring so much assistance to an upper-middle class lifestyle, they also generate mutual good feelings besides. To them, that’s community.

My brother and his wife attend an evangelical, non-demoninational service and keep an active social life among their friends, most of whom are in the same congregation with kids the same age. They’re basically conservative yuppies, career and family oriented, who love the Lord and help their friends & family often. I don’t know if that’s community, but it’s definitely a network of close and not-so-close relationships.

As for myself, I left town and set out looking for a neighborhood full of Jesus Freaks for whom God and church far outranked personal connections and/or civic associations. For ten years, I found what I longed for, and I was glad. It was much like what Frank Viola is promoting. I wish I’d been able to stay there and I hope I can experience something like it again.

But iMonk, I have to say it’s possible none of these four puts the others to shame in the way you asked. It depends on who’s asking, for it seems there are many different definitions - and degrees - of “community”.

Still, what I want - and I think, you as well - is community IN the church. If I could find that, I might even put up with mass once a week. Maaaaaybe. ;)
Yup, that's how I feel. Any comments?

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