As I prepared for a class on church history, I was reminded of all the ways that we create, or sometimes destroy, community. From earliest times, Christians have been made one through the body of Christ. One of Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples was to break bread together and share stories with one another. Worship is centered on the special meal of Holy Communion. Even outside the context of church and the Eucharist, our bonds are strengthened whenever we break bread together.
When Ann and Thomas were small, we used to cook together as entertainment. “When in doubt, bake!” Or cook! Occasionally I would use a silly Julia Childs sort of voice and offer my own version of cooking class. Some of our favorite times in Tennessee involved gathering our friends and those who didn’t have a place to go for Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, and sharing meals. Our time in the kitchen and around the table deepened our bonds, and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Two Sundays ago, in our series on the stewardship of our gifts, John Price brought chocolates for us to enjoy. He encouraged us to pay attention to the experience – to be mindful – and then he asked us what we noticed. Some mentioned what the chocolate smelled like, its texture, its taste, how it melted in our mouths. Being mindful is not a bad paradigm for the rest of our lives, either. An awareness of all that God has given us, paying attention to the world around us, and noticing the needs of others, gives us plenty of opportunities to respond. We can respond as individuals, or as a community, sharing our resources, meals, prayers, joy and love. We share our stories, and the ways in which we are aware of God’s love intersecting with our daily lives.
This past week at Clergy Conference at Camp Allen, all the clergy in the Diocese were treated to wonderful meals, fellowship, and time to spend in reflection, rest or recreation. We listened to speakers who invited us to consider ministry in new ways. The theme centered on missional communities. Missional communities are groups of people who form around intentional mission goals and agree to live by common tenets. We heard examples of church communities who reached beyond their church walls to the surrounding neighborhoods, inviting people to share meals, conversations and activities for the good of the community or individuals. Other groups chose to develop small communities that agreed to live by a rule of life which included prayer, service, and shared meals, either living together in a household, or separately.
These talks sparked my imagination, and those of my friends and colleagues. Over meals we talked about how we might implement some of the ideas that the talks engendered. We explored logistical and practical questions. I heard concerns about neighborhood schoolchildren in need of breakfast, or food to cover the weekend. I thought about my neighborhood in San Marcos, and the sense of community we had built along our street, and around the nearby circle. I considered how being a priest within a neighborhood might provide neighbors someone to talk with about their struggles with faith, life, or family. I listened to my clergy friends describe their ideas for forming intentional missional communities and I wondered what forming a missional community at St. Mark’s might look like. What do you think? Where is your heart drawing you? Where might we share the love of God with those who haven’t experienced God in positive ways or at all? I only know that my vision would include breaking bread together and sharing stories, in Holy Communion.