In the article I recommended you read entitled, “the difference between cultivating communities and building churches”, Kathy Escobar says this about the subject: “Cultivating real community is a whole other animal. Over the course of The Refuge, we’ve definitely had our shares of ups & downs and “what in the $(#&!@*^! are we doing?” moments, but I’d say the one thing that has always been central is focusing on cultivating a diverse, experiential, advocacy-infused, transformational healing community.It’s also why we’re small. Sometimes it’s all just…weird. The church building formulas “work” for a reason. Formulas can and do build some really amazing churches. But the formulas don’t usually create community. Finding ways to knit hearts together, share life and meals, gather around a common purpose but allow for a wide range of diversity and perspectives, nurture a spirit of justice and action, make room for doubt & questions & fears and somehow create a safe and challenging container to learn to love God, ourselves and others and be loved by God, ourselves, and others requires a whole different way of thinking.”
What “different way of thinking” do YOU think is needed to build a transformational healing community? Do you think Kathy’s premise is true when she says “Formulas can and do build some really amazing churches. But the formulas don’t usually create community.”? And…before we get too “certain” about our take on this subject, can I just say this right out of the gate? Whether one is building an amazing church using a formula OR working to create a safe and challenging container of community – it is all HARD. Both make mistakes. Big mistakes. Both church and community will continually disappoint us. Break our hearts. Make us want to turn and run and never, ever look back. Once I hurt my best friend in the whole world’s feelings in a terrible way. While I was crying puddles of tears, telling her that I would understand if she never wanted to be my friend, she said with a big sigh and a LOT of resignation, “What choice do I have? Where else would I go?” Now, it’s not like we have buried bodies in the backyard of our houses together. We don’t have the secret “goods” on each other making the break up of a long friendship impossible for fear of jail time. But my friend, God bless her, had this thing that I one day hope to possess – a deep and profound capacity for showing a pitiful beggar grace and mercy. She is weird that way. She practices what she believes and she’s pragmatic about the challenges of loving the unlovely. Whether you attend a thriving church will lots of formulas, programs and strategic plans OR you manage to tolerate the wild and crazy ride of worshipping in a recovery community – it’s all hard. Having worshipped in a big church and now in this small one – I can say that sometimes programs are easier to manage than the intimate, vulnerable and often weirdly wonderfully wacky ways of a small group of people. In big church, people can disappear and no one much notices. We can assume they’ve chosen to go down the street for the newly remodeled church with a superior handbell choir. In our little tribe, if one couple leaves we notice and mourn their loss. Sometimes folks disappear because they are back on the streets. Or yes – dead. In big church, programs are so work intensive that sometimes you don’t have time to think about whether or not they are actually effective. In a small community, you know every BIG FAIL within hours of the evidence coming to light.
…to be continued