Reading HopefulLeigh’s Sunday Sentiments has got me thinking about community. It reminded me of my time in Korea when I joined a cult church because I was craving Christian community in my own language.
Community is a gathering of individuals for a greater purpose. Humans have been creating community for centuries, no I should say, millennia. Family units are the first community we experience. And how we relate to that community will forever shape the way we relate to the other communities we encounter.
The second community I encountered was my hometown. My hometown is not so much a town as it is a rural village. It’s called Sunny Corner and boasts 2 corner stores, a high school and elementary school, 2 community services organizations, a recreation centre, a police detachment and a volunteer fire station. By virtue of where it is located, it has become a hub for those in the surrounding rural community who must pass through it on their way to the nearest city, 20 minutes drive away. The community revolves around the school and most people living in the community work outside the community.
The third community I experienced was my church community. Pentecostal by birth, I went to a church a mile from home. Most of the church people are from other communities driving 30 – 45 minutes to go to church. I knew everyone. Everyone knew me. But it was like I felt I like I didn’t belong. Nothing to do with the church, but me. Keep reading and you’ll find out where I belong.
When I found myself in Seoul, I chose the biggest church in the world as my congregation. You get lost in the masses, and the language. So I started looking for a new church community to join. The church I joined had great community and I discounted any warning signs my theological training sounded, because I craved that community.
I stayed long enough to be baptized (my second baptism) and then realized my error in joining. I left scared. I found a Pentecostal assembly that I had been avoiding, because I was an uppity Canadian, too proud to attend an American church. Dummy me!!! I found the new congregation to be warm and welcoming, very similar to my home church. I soon came to know most of the congregation. And my time inKoreaended too soon.
Fast forward 10 years, a move home from Korea, a pastoral position, a university degree, two jobs; I grew dissatisfied in my church. I was going out of a sense of obligation, not a sense of God. Week in week out I wondered if I would be missed. And when I missed a few weeks, I never heard from anyone. But when I came back, it was like I had never missed.
My switch came when I decided to visit the churches in my city. The first church I visited was the one I stopped at. It was Anglican, with an emphasis on the traditions and the liturgy. The first person I met was an extended cousin, who knew my dad as a baby.
The second person I met invited me to sit with her family during the service. And I stayed because I felt welcome. The liturgy and tradition has been a great comfort to me. I find that I love going to church, especially the Sung Eucharist. This is not what my Pentecostal upbringing would have expected. But this is where I feel I belong.
My doctrine and theology have been reinforced by the tradition and liturgy. I do know it’s not for everybody, and I really don’t expect to see you next Sunday. But if you do find yourself at my church, be prepared to meet someone new.
What does your church congregation do to foster community? How do you do at welcoming new people to your church community?