Tag Archives: community

Building Community

Over the past two weeks, I have travelled with my youngest son back in time courtesy of two historic dwellings.  Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of serving as a chaperone for his third grade to the Pierce House, built in 1683 and located about four blocks from Joshua’s school.  Then, last Monday, the family went to 83 Beals Street in Brookline, the “modest” home built in 1909 where the thirty-fifth president of the U.S. was born.  Both these houses have been restored to reflect an earlier time period and give those who visit a unique glimpse of life for those living in the past.

The Pierce House was restored to reflect its namesake’s ownership, Colonel Samuel Pierce. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Pierces farmed and worked a 20-acre plot of land and the house was furnished and fashioned to depict colonial life in New England.  It gave my son and his classmates the opportunity to experience life from another person’s perspective.  One activity the children played during the field trip was a trading game: each student was given a role in the community (wheelwright, farmer, shoemaker, etc.) and a shopping list, requiring them to interact with others to secure what they needed to survive.    From this humble home, I hope my nine-year old gained an understanding of the value of community.

We visited the birthplace of John F. Kennedy on what would have been his one hundredth birthday.  While the brochure describes the house as “modest”, it seemed opulent for the times (electricity, indoor plumbing and maids’ quarters).  The home was restored to its appearances in 1920, according the “living cultural translator”, a maid-of-all-work named Marie.  She told us about the modern convenience of the toaster and the Cupcakes she was working on to celebrate Jack’s third birthday.   She seemed proud to work for such a prominent family and grateful for the opportunities her new life in her new country provided.  From this well-appointed home, I hope my nine-year old gained an understanding of the value of hard work.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13

These two homes gave me pangs of melancholy.  As I stood watching third-graders trading food and fabrics with their classmates, I longed for a time before supermarkets and department stores when we knew our neighbors and their importance to the community: everyone had something to offer and everyone helped everyone else.  As I stood in a Brookline kitchen, I longed for a time before Apple© products and electronic apps when we sought to serve others and share our lives with more than a small circle of like-minded individuals.  I long for a place where the values of the past are appreciated in the present.

This nostalgic sadness subsides as I think about the role of the church in our culture: it can be the place where we find real community and the place where we foster real opportunities to serve.  Perhaps your longings for a better world, if you have them, can be satisfied at a house of worship near you.

Type Casting

At this very moment I have 199 unread emails in my inbox.  Most of them are of little importance that I can quickly scan and delete (notifications of the latest sales and deals at stores and restaurants I have frequented, daily or weekly newsletters and devotionals from ministries and ministers I respect, and the occasional opportunity from a Nigerian prince), but there are a few which have subject lines that are ambiguous and, therefore, warrant a closer look (just in case they are important or urgent).  Because of the internet, I am now able to interact with nearly anyone who may have an inquiry or request for intercession.  What I wonderful time to be alive.

Now I have 205.

Electronic communication is a marvelous resource for this generation:  you can interact with missionaries who serve halfway across the globe, engage in prayer with innumerable people despite differences in location and schedule, or encourage untold (and sometimes unknown) saints and strangers with an apt and timely word.   While I still prefer a phone conversation over an email or text regarding substantive matters, many times a few digital characters are sufficient to efficiently address the details of life.  Plans, which for previous generations took days or weeks to finalize, can now be ironed out in moments.   What a wonderful time to be in community.

207.

While I take the time to espouse the merits of digital dialogue, I am also aware of its dangers.  In this electronic age, we have the ability to say almost anything to nearly everyone: however, immediacy can hinder introspection and sometimes some people type faster than they think, causing everything from misunderstanding (in the best scenarios) to misogyny (in the worst).  In this electronic age, we have the ability to happily exist in a state of complacency: we can be tempted to read daily devotionals and peruse personal emails or posts as a substitute for real life interactions.  In this electronic age, we have the ability to surround ourselves with others who share our opinions and beliefs: our electronic presence can place us in an ‘echo chamber’ of our own thoughts.  Still, what a wonderful time to be engaged.

212.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

Email, blogs, social media – all marvelous tools to help us engage with the culture around us (and to the farthest corners of the world).  But, like any tool, electronic communications must be used skillfully and wisely.  And, like any tool, electronic communication must not be used exclusively.  We must challenge one another to speak (with our voices and our keystrokes) with words that uplift.  We must stretch ourselves to reach out to others with actual interactions and not simply react to life.  We must lead with love.  What a wonderful time to be a child of God.

At this point I now have 219 emails to deal with…and a whole host of people to talk with face-to-face.