I heard those words a lot this weekend. Building community. I think every person who spoke to us at orientation said something like “seminary isn’t just about training you for ministry, it’s about building community here on campus and beyond.” Well, that’s my interpretation of what they said. We also were warned about interpreting, but that’s a post for another day.
Back to building community.
One of the ways that the seminary I attend (I can say that now because I am officially registered for 9 hrs. Please pray for me.) builds community is by having the students “break bread” together. There is a lunch meal served each day of classes and students, faculty, even the president of the seminary, all share the same food in the same room. Having experienced that last night and today, it really is a lovely thing. The conversation was good (so was the food) and somehow fulfilling a basic human need together equalizes everyone. We all have to eat – it’s a primal human need and meeting that need together, with the same food, places the participants on equal ground.
I, however, will not be participating in that method of community building. I only have morning classes and will be rushing home to fix lunch and eat with Girlie, Gorilla and the baby. So, I need to find other ways of participating in becoming a part of the seminary community. But why?
Community is important. Community helps us grow. Community helps us feel a part of something greater than our own small selves. Community exposes us to a different kind of humanity that we see in our own lives. Community enriches us. Community humbles us. Community is the way God intends us to be and do and love and live.
God is community. God is community through His triune nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God exists by community.
Now I understand why I heard that phrase – building community – so much. As we build community with those around us – fellow students, co-workers, neighbors, other parents of small children, other single people, others who are similar and different from us – we find ourselves stronger that we ever could be in solidarity. We are designed for the relationships of community.
How do we do that? We eat together. We play together. We work together. We sing together. We worship together. We serve together. We laugh together. We cry together. We live life together.
And we have to be willing to be real. Today during lunch, one of my fellow students was feeling a little sad that we wouldn’t be in any classes together. Why? “You are so blunt. I think it would be so much fun to be in class with you and get to know you and how you think.” I’m not sure that being described as blunt is a really positive thing, but what I was being was real. I am who I am and while I’m working on improving some aspects of me, I’m not going to hide behind false pretenses of all happy and sunshine and roses.
I am me and I try to be real. I get mad (more than I want to). I yell (and I wish I didn’t). I cry (sometimes in the shower so no one knows). I get lazy (just look at the cobwebs and dust/dirt in my house). I mess up and I’m not always right (but don’t tell Racer that). I get jealous (sometimes even of my BFF, but she knows it). And then, I feel guilt and have to confess all of those things. Thankfully, I also have grace.
(And I know I’m not all bad. I have a lot of good qualities too. Just ask me. I’ll tell you.)
To me, being real is part of building community. If I think the price of the meal plan is higher than I want to pay, I’ll say it regardless if the president of the seminary is sitting two seats down (he was). I’ll also take my shoes off and dangle my feet in the cool water of the fountain because I’m feeling stressed and need something tangible to bring me back (and I did). Yet, I’ll respect the “don’t walk on the grass, use the sidewalks” wishes of the folks in charge, even thought I really want to cut across. But that’s part of community too. Learning about the quirks of others and loving them in spite of it all.
Building community. It’s a chore sometimes. It gets messy sometimes. It takes longer than just going it alone sometimes. But it’s well worth the effort. When we build community, the journey is longer, lighter and lovelier.
And we just might find ourselves in the midst of something unexpectedly wonderful. Thank you to each of you who have taken the time to build community with me – friends, neighbors, “secret groups,” congregations, other mommies, others in ministry and many more. I’m glad we share life together.