Who is Your community? It‘s a valid question, because we have to define which community we are referring to. Is our community the geographical place where we live? It used to be – because due to geography and climate and all that, we had a lot in common with our neighbours – often even shared DNA. But the world has changed a lot, what with transportation and immigration and such, so we’re no longer as similar to our neighbours as we used to be.
Is it the people we work with? Well, again this might be a challenge. The folks we work with are unlikely, in this day and age of increasing urbanisation, to be our immediate neighbours. So the folks we are working with are an artificial community, a collection of people amassed around a common goal – the job. We may share nothing with these folks outside of office hours, and not that much with them during office hours. We could be literal strangers sharing a cubicle wall – hardly a community.
Is it our social circle? Again, this can be problematic in our techno-heavy world. Are our ‘friends’ the people we spend Saturday nights with, or the folks we’ve added on our social media (the irony is not lost on this socmed blogger!) Is it dependent on how often we get together, or for what duration? Does distance matter? Do we open ourselves completely to those within our social circle, or are we limited by other factors? We may socialise based on common interests or personal histories or ulterior motives; we may socialise in person or online or not at all.
Is our community the people we go to church with? This too can raise concerns. For some, the worshipping community is the geographical reality. In rural settings, people tend to go to the local church because it is their local church. The style or theology or liturgics (&c.) may not be to their preference, but options are limited. In urban centres, parking is a necessity for a church as many are coming from a distance – commuting to a church that feels like a good fit is important, with travel being a secondary consideration.
So how do we define our community? I think that’s a challenge for us all individually. My community are the people I open myself up to, the ones who know me well. They’re the folks who I trust with my emotions, and who trust me in return. They will call me on bad or weird behaviour, they’ll support me in my decisions even if they disagree (but will say as much!), they will drop everything if I need help. We have shared experiences, shared understanding, shared space. We don’t always have the same faith, or ideology, or taste, or perspective – but we always have common ground.
And, for me, my community folks are everywhere: my chosen family live in a different province and up the road, my closest friends live across the sea and one town over. We communicate by phone or Skype, by text or email, in person over dinner. We worship together, we debate and discuss issues, we share jokes and stories. My community is the people I have chosen to be around, those who challenge me to be the best version of me that I can be. And, God willing, I can do the same for them. They are my community, as I define it.
Who is your community? How do you define and build your community?