Saturday, 12 November 2011

Community: what we can offer

Jim Wallis, the American Christian activist and writer, believes that the Christian community needs to be very clear what dimension of the Gospel the world most needs to hear and experience in our time.

Writing in his book The Call to Conversion, he holds that the greatest need is “not simply for kerygma, the preaching of the Gospel; nor for diakonia; service on behalf of justice; nor for charisma, the experience of the Spirit’s gifts; nor even for propheteia; the challenging of the King. The greatest need of our time is for koinonia, the call simply to be church….to offer to the world a living, breathing, loving community of church. This is the foundation of all answers.”

"A living, breathing, loving community" - he is so right!  It is within a community that expresses the faith in worship, love, service and action that Christ is encountered and the Spirit is active.

My experience has been that people who have experienced the church in their lives, at a local level, as a vibrant, loving church, are the people who "catch" what it is all about. This experience of church as communion can take place in a dynamic parish, a prayer group, a bible study group, a social justice group, or any of a myriad such small communities.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI, puts it bluntly: "In the end, people are as agnostic about faith, Christ, and the church as they are about the experience of community. When there is a strong experience of community there is generally a strong faith... Christianity, in the end, is a communal endeavor. We believe in it when community works, we stop believing in it when community and family break down.  Our primary task today is to live community. If we can do that, then the visible body of Christ, the Church, will have an incredible resurrection."