It’s always a little work to clear a space in my home, the boys’ toys and our paper piles always on the dining room table. Today I moved the piles and straightened out the blue table cloth. I moved the pink bouquet of flowers there and set the table. The sink was full of dishes, but we had our friends over any way while the boys watched a movie. We served leftover soup. Ten years older than they are, we’re privileged to hear as their story unfolds. We are community, so that’s what we do: we tell the running story, and we don’t want each other to miss a thing.
I’ve written several times about our community (here, here, here, and here), and often those posts solicit questions about how our community group came to be. How do we remain in such consistent fellowship and take care of each others’ needs so well? Often people even want to know the logistics: where? how often? with children? format?
The thing that’s hardest to share is how it got started, because obviously the Spirit doesn’t leave much room for formulas. How ours began isn’t how yours will because “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with every [community] who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
I’m not sure I can properly explain how we started with so little, nearly at zero. Another couple came to our house for dinner, and we were long-lost friends. They had just moved home from overseas, and they had experienced too much to bear, and we met and it quickly came to tears, so we prayed.
When we lifted our heads and gave the hugs, we said let’s do this again next week, and so we did, and then the next week we invited another couple to come. One of our friends wasn’t even sure what she believed anymore. Again we just said, “let’s pray,” so we did. And we loved each other in the zero, how little any of us felt we had to give.
That was two years ago, and I do look back and see such a willingness to be awkward, a desperateness to hear from God, to know He was there in our little. So that’s how it started: tears, knees, quietness, then sharing. Once a week was hardly enough then, so we often made a way to get together in our tiny apartment for drinks and eating, our kids running wild in the yard. We played music and games. We sing, always; always we sing, breaking through the awkward every time.
Laying it all bare became pretty easy, so as others joined us, they followed suit. That’s the best part, the growing, the quirks of humanness, the loud kids, the way one disliked us at first, but he just kept coming, and we loved him into shape. We studied together and tried to work out the “one anothers.” We share food, time, and money with one another. We never stop telling the story, speaking the truth, to one another.
Oh and we have misunderstood one another and forgiven, and we have loved.
Last night we gathered for a birthday, and the house rattled with competitive story-telling and children and clanking cups. I walked with my camera around, quiet in my skin, recording glory. The other night one hugged my neck and whispered “you are a child of God,” so I take these photos and tears well up. My community group is my family, a line that will indeed be going on generations from now.
Who? We call ourselves church, the body of Christ, hoping for a microcosm of what happens in the broader community of our town, in buildings with signs out front, and also in secret places on a global scale. Our children do come in and out. They see us pray, then go watch a movie. If they come in the room, sometimes we shoo them away. If the conversation isn’t too mature, we invite them to sit. In the early days, we led the children in song and taught them a little two-minute lesson. Often we give them stern looks and just tell them to be quiet, so obviously we have room for improvement.
What? We eat. We pray. We sing a lot. We encourage one another with Scripture. We spend a season taking turns telling our own stories, too, so we know the context of other lives, why someone might understand things a different way. We always put our hands on each other and speak blessing and make requests of God. We often end with Doxology.
When? At the very least, we meet once a week after working hours.
Where? We always cram into our homes or apartments.We feel like a secret place, but we also worship together every Sunday morning on about the 2nd row back in the right isle at “big church.”
How? Often ragged and tired. Always needy. Usually hungry.
Why? Because we fellowship with the crucified and risen Christ there. How could I not attend a gathering like that?
Tune back in this Monday, October 1st for Part 2 On Making Community.
Post and Images by Amber C Haines
When it comes to practical ways to build community, won’t you share some of your experiences?
(in)RL GIVEAWAY: Won’t you share in the comments or link up your stories below? We’d love to hear your stories as we “check-in” on how we’re doing with this whole bravely connecting with community thing.
And we’d love to give one of you who shares our beautiful set of (in)courage Postcards from God’s Beach House – the Friendship edition with quotes from (in)RL.