On Creating Community

I know it went dark here for several months, and for much of that I was just in survival mode, doing what needs to be done. But also, I was doing this deep dive of reading, listening, learning, reflecting and being frustrated. Below is the first effort at gathering thoughts and surfacing some…well, they’re not conclusions or insights yet, but the puzzle pieces are more or less all present. I’d welcome any feedback – really, anything! From anyone! We’ll touch on this when we next gather, but for those who read this and you aren’t in my bookclub group…I’m really curious what resonates, what draws you in, what feels ickky…(sp?)…please don’t hesitate to get in touch…that’s what community is about, right?

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

What makes a community? How do you know you belong – and what does that involve? What supports a community to grow and thrive?

I’ve been reading around and reflecting on community, belonging, the life-long learning journey of faith, and I’ve been incubating these questions for some time now. It’s still a bit of messy mystery, but here are some ‘hooks’ that seem to be central and essential:

A community gathers around shared values – these need to be clear not just as aspirational or inspirational ideas but as grounded practices.

A community needs to have relational structures of accountability so that when words or actions of any member do not align with shared values, there is honest, open, direct and caring communication to facilitate change, learning and growth.

True belonging means being loved and accepted as you are – warts and all – as a work in progress.

Each one of the community needs to be supported in the work of being a ‘work-in-progress’. There needs to be a regular and intentional check in with a group or an individual who will hold a space for self-reflection and direction on the ongoing inner journey.

A community’s values will mean that there are behaviours and attitudes that are not welcome.

How will these values be upheld with compassion if a person acts against them?

A community needs a purpose that is larger than itself.

What is the purpose of the community? Where do we find meaning and significance? What are the outcomes we are hoping for by sharing the journey of faith and learning in community with each other?

Connection is the experience of being seen, heard, known, understood, valued and accepted. This requires honesty, vulnerability and reciprocity.

What is needed to foster connection – to teach these skills of receptive listening, of courageous sharing, of celebrating different gifts and perspectives….how do we practice, explore, engage, honour, offer and respect this?

The journey of faith is a transformational one but learning and change is a long, slow process. What supports the long-haul journey? Who holds responsibility for the discipline?

What practices support transformational growth both for individual and community engagement?

  • Contemplative practice – silence and stillness as a daily practice
  • Listening with scripture – lectio and chant
  • Embodied practice – communion, shared meals, gardening, craftivism, advocacy.
  • Service – working together, learning from others
  • Story telling
  • Celebration and healing – expressing and sharing the gifts of our life and inner journey through art, music, dance, poetry, prayer etc.

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