I am working towards my master’s in theology. Today was the last meeting of the pastoral care and ministry class. It was different than the other classes that I have had in this program. The professor called it a lab course. I want to call it a “building community” course. We had a couple of individual writing assignments, but most of what we did was in community. We wrote and shared devotionals with each other. We each wrote three devotionals from a single passage over the course of the class, and then in class, we gave each of the three to a different part of the class.
We also shared communion each week. We led in groups of 3 or 4, allowing everyone to lead once. We all come from different backgrounds which in itself created variety in these times. But the context of the class itself allowed for creativity in the presentation of the elements. We took communion outside one day. Another day we approached it in a circle and talked about sharing one another’s burdens. One group had us think about times where we have felt God’s presence the most in our lives. Today, we ate together, matzah ball soup and bread, as we talked about what we were thankful for in these last seven weeks. As all of us shared, some things stood out. We were thankful for the space to meet with one another and God, an oasis, as it were, in the business of our lives. We were thankful for the conversations that we had had with one another. For the relationships that were built or refreshed as we combined new class members and older class members. We were thankful for the community. A community that was built partly from our times of communion.
I started thinking about the way we often do communion in our churches. A quick bite of bread and a swallow of juice en masse as part of a public service, individually though in a group. One of our leaders today pointed to the New Testament church and how they partook of the bread and wine as part of living life together. They were gathered around a table for a meal. They were sharing their days and their lives. They were laughing together and mourning together and becoming this new thing called the church. And it was at that table that they broke the bread and shared the cup and remembered Jesus and what he had done for them. They participated in communion as part of community.
I had not taken a class in the last year. This was my first one back. And I realized that what I missed the most about class is the community. One of my friends said they talked about the sin of “the willful rejection of interconnectedness” in Sunday school. I am grateful that in the classes that I have been taking there is community, an interconnectedness. But I also realize that I do avoid interconnectedness sometimes. I never considered it a sin before. It is a new thought to ponder. But one of the best ways to ponder it is in community. Perhaps around a table. Even a communion table.
Where is your community? How do you build it and encourage it? Where are you avoiding interconnectedness? What can you do to change that?