Community, it is something that is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian and as a Mennonite, it has been a defining feature of my life. I have been given the amazing privilege of heading up a campaign to create a national dialogue on community on behalf of the KW based charity, Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement.
As part of this campaign we are engaging with faith communities from coast to coast. This fall as part of getting the campaign started I had twelve phone interviews with a group of local pastors in the KW area. We focused on three main questions:
How is your church already working at community building?
What challenges stand in the way of building this community?
What would be helpful to support your church in building community?
These conversations stimulated a rich dialogue with each pastor, as they were excited to share what their church is doing to build community and were frank with the challenges they are facing. Two common themes jumped out from these conversations.
The first theme was the deep passion that each pastor and their church had for building community, not just internally but also in the broader area, both locally and in many cases internationally as well.
The second theme was around how the cultural context that we exist within is shifting and the struggle that churches are having when trying to adapt to this societal shift.
This is the introduction in a five part series of reflections written about the interviews.
The next article will focus on the role of space. The function of a church building as a hub to build community was discussed by many of the pastors both as a benefit but also as a cost. One of the pastors also spoke from the perspective of a church who is trying to build community without their own building.
The third article will focus on this shifting culture of individualism and its impact on the role of church in building community. Now more than ever, the church is no longer the primary hub in people’s lives but rather one of many competing interests. What does mean for the church moving forward?
Despite these many challenges, all the pastors identified opportunities that they were exploring to build community. The fourth article in this series will focus in on these opportunities, what is working and how can we expand on these insights.
The final article is a personal story that pulls on themes that came out of the conversations and also on writings by Tamarack's President, Paul Born. In this final instalment I will talk about my own experience growing up in Community Mennonite Church, and how this church through building community built me and my own understandings of people and society.
To learn more about Tamarack’s national dialogue on community or to host your own community conversation you can contact Derek Alton at email@example.com.