I’ve lived ‘in community’ a number of times in my life. Just like a family situation, you occasionally find yourself getting under each other’s feet, getting on people’s nerves, being frustrated with someone’s behaviour, unable to find a compromise, or even being angry about how someone’s behaved. Of course, as well as being the recipient, we too do our fair share to aggravate, frustrate or annoy. Community life can be a rough ride.
But community life can be inspiring. People encourage one another or give each other support. You can feel down and yet find yourself inspired by the wisdom and generosity of others. People can share a perspective on life that you’ve never seen, or offer a solution to a problem you’re struggling to see. And just as others can inspire, we too play our part in guiding and encouraging. Community living can open our eyes.
Church life is community living too. We may not live in the same house as others who share our Christian life, but when we gather in community (as our congregations tend to be ‘gathered’) we share together in the communal living of the Church. We should long to share with one another in spiritual gifts to strengthen each other. We should long to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. We should long to take part in mission to share our faith with our local communities.
Yet we must remember that our Churches are not always places where people feel able to step over the threshold and be part of the community. Church life is difficult for people for a variety of reasons. While this restricts, we know that when we share communally, when we meet and build each other up, the life of the Church is enriched and strengthened and we can live God’s mission for the Church. We must break down barriers in our Church so we can all be encouraged and inspired by the common faith we share.