Friday, September 07, 2007

What is Community?

There have been some great discussions in recent days over at Matt Hosier's blog about just what Christian community looks like. A general feeling of dissatisfaction was felt by most commentators, and a deep feeling that the way we live in the west is not all there is, or even a particularly good way to live.

I have seen this discussion widening more and more in both the UK and the US with blogs such as Matt, Tim Simmonds, Phil Whittall's ; groups on Facebook such as New Monasticism and the Irresistible Revolution and Another World is Possible; and provoking books such as School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. What I find interesting is the breadth of people talking about this - Anglicans, Methodists, Charismatics, Reformed - the whole breadth, uniting around the idea that it is possible to express Christ through community more than we are at the moment.

These things have been bubbling away inside me for a few years now, and are beginning to take a more solid shape. Here are some random thoughts:

  • Why do we all need to live in our own little boxes? Why can we not share housing - releasing resources, saving energy, creating a more open and welcoming envirnoment?
  • How can we make the shift form seeing possession as 'my stuff' and start seeing them as 'God's Stuff' and thus seeing them as 'Our Stuff' - holding things lightly and generously?
  • If the world cannot sustain the life of the average Briton when given to the whole population of the earth, should we not change our lifestyle to live more simply?
  • The Church could be a prophetic voice, living genuinely counter-culturally to show that a better world is possible, that we do not have to live selfish, consumer-driven lives.

This all feels like a lot of jumbled thoughts at the moment. Anyone want to join me in working out what it all means?


  1. Here's a question then, let's earth it and problem solve - how do you get from a-b? What do you need, what does it take to get some movement on this?

  2. I think we probably need to realise that if the church start sharing accommodation and all our possesions we are just going to look wierd to the rest of our culture!

    Does community have to be about us all living in some sort of YMCA and lending all our stuff to some christian who wont give it back?

  3. OK Phil - let's do it - I'll be in touch.

    Tim - so we'll look wierd as opposed to ... now right???

    Seriously - in my experience the Church is more convincing when looking at where it is enculturated and acting against that than when it is trying to not look wierd and to 'fit in'.

    You jump to an extreme when talking about 'living in some sort of YMCA' - you are assuming the worst, but not aiming for the best.

    The assumptions on what is a 'normal' life in our society are so at odds with how we are supposed to live accoridng to Scripture. If we think an automatic washing machine, TV, DVD player, gaming console, IPOD, home ownership, a garden, matching crockery, fitted kitchen, conservatory, annual holiday are all normal we are so mistaken. The Bible says "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content."

    I'm just asking the question (I'm just exploring here), not saying we all need to share housing, although economic and envirnomental arguments are pretty compelling. In some european countries there are other models for living that we are not even considering here - apartments with shared laundry and gardens for example - and these can make a huge difference. There are also the needy among us - our current model of these things doesn't give us much opportunity to help people.

    Just trying to get a grip on things.

  4. I am exploring too.

    I like your comments and was being a bit sarcastic to provoke the debate!

  5. I think the idea of having some private and some shared space is well worth investigating - bedrooms, bathroom and a relaxing room (lounge or whatever) as important but kitchen, utilities room, garden, dining room could be shared.

    The other idea is kind of Eden project style but having enough Christians in a street to make a difference. I live in a square with 33 other houses, how many more Christian families would it take to 'tip' the balance, affect the dynamic of the square, the events that take place, the atmosphere? On evidence so far, more than 1! It also allows for sharing because we're in proximity to each other but not in each others pockets. What do you think Tim?

  6. I think the "commune" approach is a logical conclusion that eventually may become unfulfilling in the same way that living in our own little pokey boxes does.

    I think I am looking for something where I do own things, I do take personal financial responsibility and everything that provides me with is open to God, and the Church community I am part of to share in.

    So I have a house, which I bought using a mortgage, and I had a lodger for two years. Then I got married, we had a year of just us two, now we have a 17 year old guy living with us who needed a place to stay while he completed 6th form college.

    Giving others a home who need one - somehow I need a home from which to do that. I don't want to offer someone a room in a shared space, I want to open my space to them, somehow.

    Tonight there are the guys I play football with on mondays coming over to our place to watch the England game.

    I like the idea of some "personal" space, because that is what we can actually share effectively, share sacrifically. If everything disappears into a central hole we end up with nothing to give rather than everything to share.

    Having said that I like the "shared space" idea, with some specific areas of our lives not actually needing us to "own" them, and that goes for everything from a dining room to a car.

  7. Practically, I think we need to be very aware of the 'tyranny of things', as Randy Alcorn describes it. E.g., I buy a TV, and then I buy a comfy chair to watch the TV, and then I get surround sound, and then I buy a load of dvds, and then, and then... and suddenly it is the TV that owns me, rather than the other way round.

    And I think we also need to be aware of our personal blind spots. It is easy for me to criticise someone who spends lots of money on something I am not interested in, while I can usually rationalise spending lots of money on the things that matter to me!

    It is easy to get judgmental, and it is easy to treat others with less grace than we do ourselves.

    But we do all have too much stuff.

    I like the quote in the Tobias Jones book that got me started on all this: "Already the first or second question people ask on looking for a house is about storage space, because we've all got too many possessions. We just haven't got enough space to put them, so we have to work harder and earn more aggressively to have a couple of extra square metres of floor, which will then get filled up with more rubbish."

  8. hey... if I can update my blog at least once a month, you can too!


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