Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday's Weekly Rap-Up - June 14, 2013

Community - Tedashii (Ft. Stephen The Levite and Sho Baraka)

I don't spend much time on Facebook, thank goodness, but I did spend some time earlier this week scrolling through my timeline, gaining perspective as to what people from high school and college are doing in their lives, who has gotten married, who is having children, and where people are living. My sentiments started to come together after seeing where men and women from Spartan Christian Fellowship at Michigan State University are at, especially the guys from the bible study that I was a part of, and who were the first to encourage me in my faith in Christ, modeling, as best they could, aspects of Christian community. I can testify that this commitment to community was one of the things that led me to a fuller understanding and acceptance of Christ. I experienced the same sort of community during my time at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia through our Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

This past week I had the pleasure of hosting my parents here in Houston. It was a joy to see them and for them to see my life here in Houston. As Paul states in Ephesians, he is thankful for the fellowship and hospitality of those at Ephesus. In line with Paul's thanksgiving for that church, I am thankful for the saints at Sojourn, and their hospitality at our neighborhood parish gathering, as well as our Sunday gathering. My parents, having been raised Catholic, and a bit nervous about Protestant church experiences, were welcomed most hospitably. I was a bit nervous to think how my parents would enjoy their time gathered at Sojourn. Upon the conclusion of our gathering Sunday morning, my Mom turned to me, crying a bit, and said "I get why you like it so much here." I believe that this recognition of the community of saints at Sojourn is a radical example of a commitment to the gospel, our neighbors and friends, our city, and our neighborhood that most people do not have the opportunity to readily experience.

We were designed to be in community, as reflected by the communal nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Life in community brings us into greater holiness, confession, humility, encouragement and fellowship. Even when we feel far from community, or don't desire it at all, the Lord is gracious to call us closer to community, and ultimately to Himself. If we truly desire holiness, we must experience community because we simply cannot afford not to.

In the urban planning field, there have been case studies and experiments searching for the best variables to combine to create the most successful, engaging community possible. As I continue to read "The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment" by Eric Jacobsen, I see parallels between the built environment and our Christian communities. If communities have broad, shaded sidewalks, people will walk and interact with their neighbors. If homes have porches and smaller front yards, people will interact on the street. If there are parks, people will recreate and enjoy physical health. If there is a variety of housing types, there will be a variety of social and cultural groups. Largely, this holds true. But there is no guarantee at success. Communities are often flawed, and as Jacobsen states, "It often takes a great deal of self-awareness and patience to maintain a commitment to a flawed community (89)."

Seaside, Florida is one of these Pleasantville-type experiments in the built environment that was supposed to combine all of the right elements, producing a vibrant beachside community. Jacobsen gives account from his visit to Seaside, noting that the amenities were there, but there was no buy-in from residents. Actually, most experience Seaside not as a permanent neighborhood, but as a vacation destination. The few who actually live in Seaside spend little time after work strolling the streets or meeting in coffee shops or bars to share a meal or drink. What has been set up is a façade of a community. While this observation holds true in the field of urban planning, this also holds true in our Christian communities, and within our churches. We can create an atmosphere that allows for community to form and those within the church can instruct us on how to gain the most fruitful experience in our smaller gatherings, but without the buy-in from those participating, those instructions would be devoid of any meaning, or bringing forth any growth or joy.

It's a joy to be part of a community where we've bought into (and have been brought into) pursuing holiness, without facades and fear. As saints, we can't afford not to be in community. I am thankful for the blessing of my communities, first at Michigan State, then Marshall, and now here in Houston at Sojourn.

"Community" - Lyrics