Skip to main content

"Our Community" vs. "The Community"

Does your church take care of "their" community or "the" community?

I drive through a neighborhood that has a little park with a playground. They have a prominent sign warning that the park is for the residents' use only. 

It's for their community, not the community.

I was having coffee with my Red Pill brother, Tony Lorenzen, and we talked about this in terms of churches. About how "community" can mean such different things. "Our community" has boundaries, it has gated access and the teeth of guard dogs.

The community is boundless.

Tony pointed out that the history of Unitarian Universalism is one of "The Community," not "Our Community." This isn't just fuzzy theoretical musings. It's why we got the buildings, the membership rolls, and the communion silver. (Even if it took a while to collect the latter.)

In 1818, the community of Dedham, Massachusetts called a liberal (what would soon to be known as “Unitarian”) minister to their church. The people who were the members of the Dedham Church wanted an orthodox minister so they said, “See ya,” and left with the valuables. A judge decided that the church was for the benefit of the community (parish), not just the church members, so the community had the right to the assets of the church.

I know, I know. A little detail in this is that the parish was paying a tax to support the church. So is that what we come down to, now? Only those paying members of a church should be served by it?

It's easy, today, to feel the need for "our community," for a safe place to seek sanctuary for a culture that often feels so foreign, with its emphasis on consumerism, celebrity, and, depending on where you live, fundamentalism.

But it's not enough for us to make a safe place for "our community." Our parish goes beyond our walls and we're called to make that entire parish more loving, more tolerant, more whole.

Those other folks out there ... they are residents in the Beloved Community, too.






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to