Monday, November 11, 2013

"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.