May is a time of celebrations and endings. There are events to celebrate – Mother’s Day, graduation parties, Confirmation – and my daughter’s birthday. (Perhaps not on your list of celebrations, but certainly the highlight of her little world!) More about this vivacious 3-year-old next week. For now, I need to complete the commitment I made to write about faith practices.
May comes with endings; namely, the last day of school. Last week was also the final session of our mid-week program at church. To be quite honest, I’ve felt terrible all week with this nasty cold I can’t shake, and I did not prepare for our adult education time. The topic was community. I mindlessly made it through, but now it is difficult to remember anything we discussed!
So now it is Sunday, and I’m tired. I was so very close to saying – not this week; I just can’t force myself to write this week! I can’t promise anything fantastically inspirational this week, but I am writing. More importantly, it made me take time with my son on a busy day to have a conversation about faith when I normally wouldn’t have bothered.
Week 6 – Community
I think community is critical to a full life, and critical to a rich faith life. When we are connected to one, or two, or ten communities, we have a group of people where we can share our joys, our pains, even our sense of purpose. But sometimes community can be hard; and I think that MANY times our church community can be REALLY hard. How do you bring a large group of people together and agree on the one, best, perhaps most convenient way to worship?
When we have new members join our group, we often expect that they will conform to what our group is and live by the expectations our community has already established. (When I said this to my son, he was aghast – he said “We don’t have to make people change to be like us. That’d be silly.”) The truth is that when new members join a community (think a church), the group is no longer the same group – and it is the community itself that must change and adapt.
I tried to talk to my son about this, but explaining the sometimes painful dynamics of church was difficult – and I’m not sure I want him to see yet the messy, politicized, bumpy side of being in a congregation.
He does understand being in groups. He can identify the groups he is a part of. As a parent, I see this sweet, kind, smart child leaving kindergarten and getting closer to the day when I can’t manage, maintain control or understand the communities he associates with. So I ask him – if you are new to a group of friends, and they tell you they do bad things after school every day; and if you want to be friends with them you have to do bad things too – would you be friends with them? Would you change the person you are to fit in with the group? He replies, “No. I wouldn’t change. I know I’m supposed to do good things. But maybe they would see me do good things and their group would change and be good?”
Great response, kid. He understands the right choice – and he was apparently listening to me as I babbled to him about community. He may be blissfully ignorant at this young age of the powerful peer pressure he will face in the future, but I pray he will seek the Spirit within, and act on the choices his head and heart know to be right. Prayerfully making decisions both within and for a community which are in-line with our Christian faith, and sometimes being willing to change for the good of the community – that is where the faith practice lies.
So, this is where we leave the study of faith practices. Thinking so deliberately about one topic during the week – knowing the end result was to write and share it – perhaps made me less observant to those “every-day” God moments in my family. But, a new day, a new week, new experiences and new life moments await, and I will continually strive to open my eyes in those moments to see how God is at work.