Building Community

By: Elder David Leong

Another sparkling gem from Charles Ringma as he reflects on the writings of Thomas Merton:

“The most fundamental elements in building any form of community are presence and shared communications, and openness. Community has to do with being with others. But it is a particular form of being with. We can be with others and yet remain detached, uninvolved and disconnected. — Mere presence is never enough. We need to be present to others and this involves openness and sharing. …the very structure of an intentional form of Christian community does not of itself guarantee that community in the fuller sense will occur.

While we need to be clear that there are no guarantees for community, since community is finally a gift of grace, the key challenge in building community lies in the phrase – to be present to others. And that, in the final analysis cannot be organizationally and institutionally regulated.

To be present to another person can only flow out of the magic of love. One loves and therefore communicates, listens, joins, shares. One loves and is therefore willing to make common journey with others. One loves and is willing to enter the place of pain and need.

And one is loved. Community is multi-directional. It is sharing a common life. It is sharing common bread. It is life together.”

– Charles Ringma, Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton (London: SPCK, 2003. pp. 84-85)

Ultimately, community building, whether it be in church or elsewhere, rests on the foundation of love. And for the people of God, that love and the capacity to love can only come ultimately from God, who Himself is love. May God energize us to build His community of the called.

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