So, first things first: what is community? I love that someone asked that. It reminds me not to assume anything. I will spell things out as best I can, and then let me know what I’m leaving out.
Community is at its most basic sense a group of people who come together. That’s the bottom line. We come together for whatever it is we need, usually support, maybe just for fun. But I’m talking about all of us, me here in this community and you in your own life. We are all part of some type of community — the country club, a running club, maybe a group of neighbors who get together for a dinner club. At the parish level, you might go to a pot luck supper once a week; maybe you gather with friends from your kids’ school. It could also simply be family — some people fill their need for support and interaction from their family, either their own spouse and children, or a larger sense with grandparents, aunts and uncles. This seems to be harder to come by these days because of the way our society works, people moving away for jobs, etc.
When I talk about community, the bottom line is that same notion: my community is this group of people that I gather with for the support I need.
Now for me, for the people here in this Christian community, it means several very specific things. But FIRST, let me explain this: this community I’m a part of, there are similar groups all over the world. It’s people coming together out of their common Christian beliefs. Living Christian community means making some kind of commitment, that’s what sets it apart from perhaps just a Bible study at your church. Building community, building relationships, takes effort and you really have to say you’re willing to keep at this, even when it gets hard. So making that commitment is a big part of how this is different from other groups of people supporting each other. You agree to be here and say you’re going to really try.
Specifically for my community here, we are ecumenical and we are Charismatic. (Now if you click on that link you might notice the word “pentecostal” and I tend to not use that word. I would not consider us pentecostal but there are certainly many similarities. I think I probably just have some negative connotations associated with that word.)
As for the ecumenical nature, that means that you don’t have to be Catholic to join. We do have a lot of Catholics (we are about 80-85 percent Catholic), and we also have Presbyterians and Lutherans and some folks who belong to The Vineyard Churches. The one requirement about denomination here is that you must belong to a church in good standing. Which means, being a member of this community isn’t your church. We are not a religion and we don’t take the place of that.
In the very physical sense, most of our members do live in the same neighborhood, and this makes us unique from other similar Christian communities. Many of the other groups I know of do similar prayer meetings, but none of them have members that almost all live near each other. This close proximity makes community life very natural and organic — you will build relationships with people because you spend time with them because you run into them while you’re out on your daily walk, etc.
How did this neighborhood come to be? The bottom line is it’s just the Holy Spirit. Very quick history of this: almost 40 years ago, a group of folks came together out of a parish prayer group. They had been wanting more, that’s the best they could describe it, and out of that desire grew this community. Part of that desire included really wanting to share life on a day-to-day basis, not just seeing each other at a random meeting once a week, and so the group (which initially had about fourteen adults, including several families, some singles and a local Catholic priest), they started looking at neighborhoods where they could buy houses near each other.
Through a series of events, the group came across a neighborhood of brick duplexes that had been built either for the men who had come to town to build the local Army base or to build the local bomb factory (I can’t remember which). Those people were all gone and the neighborhood had now become a crime-ridden wasteland. The owner of all these rental units wanted out.
So the founders of our community pooled their resources and bought the first wave of homes that became The Village (yes, that’s the name and some people get a kick out of it!). It’s actually called Faith Village and it’s home today to most of the community members. So there is this physical presence and gathering of many of the community members. Today the neighborhood is beautiful (though still not on the fanciest side of town). It’s grown to include nearly one square-mile filled with members of our community. People continue to buy the duplexes and surrounding non-duplex houses, fix them up and live. I like to call it Urban Revitalization.
You can tell it’s really the Holy Spirit too because living here is not cost-prohibitive. There are homes in a wide range of prices and some people are able to move in as-is while other people might have the resources to add an addition or really spruce up their space.
So! That’s all I have time for today. Keep the questions coming! I know there is still lots of ground to cover. I hope this helps with an initial understanding of what Community is all about.