This last weekend, September 1-3, the Community of Saints Barnabas and Cecilia gathered at the Community house here in Gladstone in preparation for our renewal of vows on Sunday. Our community is dispersed, that is, we all live in our own homes and minister in our own churches and areas.
Being dispersed and far ﬂung, communication has always been a difﬁculty, and actually gathering is fraught with problems. However, once we decided to be determined about it, wonderful things happened. We got to know each other better, and the term ‘community’ took on a deeper meaning.
It’s the same with any community. Communication and gathering are important in building and strengthening both individuals and the whole group. To avoid connecting with each other doesn’t give God a chance to move between us, and weakens our witness as his people.
Communities are called into being by God. Their formation involves hard work, most of which is shelving our own ideas of what ‘community’ is, and how it should be structured. We can start out with ideas of what we would like to see, but shouldn’t be surprised when, if we’re listening to God along the way, it takes off in a different direction, breaking all the rules we so carefully put into place.
Rules are all very well and good, and give a sort of foundation at a time when we start out. But they can become cumbersome. Our little Community began as a traditional, under-one-roof group, grounded in the cycle of Morning and Evening Prayer and Eucharist, and sharing our ﬁnances. However, after seven years, it was obvious that this would no longer sufﬁce. We had to do a lot of praying and listening, and a lot of giving up cherished dreams to make way for the new structure that we see today.
Our little church communities have, and in some cases, are still going through the unsettling period of questioning – If this isn’t working, what do we do?
I think the most important thing Sr. Jean and I did in 2004 when we were seeking guidance was to say: “This is your Community, Lord. If it grows, well and good. If it fades away and dies with us, then that’s good too. Our job has been, and will always be, to remain faithful to you.”
That’s the foundation of faith that our church communities must have – a total trust in God’s caring of the church, even if people die off and buildings fall down. It’s his church, and even if bits and pieces drop off, it will never completely die. Good and wonderful things emerged from a death on a rubbish heap 2000 years ago, and good and wonderful things will emerge now.
Our job is to remain faithful to God’s calling, listen hard for his voice, and continue our journey with Jesus, wherever he takes us.
And the possibilities are endless.
The Rev’d. Sr. Sandra Sears CSBC