Communities are unusual entities. They exist because people share common experiences, values, or priorities. When these begin to change the community itself begins to self destruct. The process can be quick or slow, all depending on the strength that binds the core group together.
I wonder what the village of Walton on Thames used to be like. What brought the village into existence and caused it to remain. Like many villages the driving forces have vanished and what remains is a collection of people living in a shared space. Ironically there are many churches that have much in common with Walton on Thames. There was a reason they formed but why? It is easy to analyze those remaining, especially the exceptions. You can almost hear the analyst talking; “These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!” (Jude 1.19) Yet individuals remain, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge what others see as fact.
While the formal communities are breaking up, you and I are part of the new ones that are forming. Perhaps you didn’t realize that any group of people that shares experiences, values, and priorities and meets with any degree of frequency is, by definition, a community. When the glue that holds them together stays constant one can define these values and priorities as “beliefs”. Beliefs held, lives, and modeled are at the heart of a community that has, in the past, been labeled as a church, albeit today as a rather informal one. The problem is that these new communities are incredibly important! We love them. They are composed of our friends and others we hope to include in that network. They protect us and reflect the things of life that we hold of most value.
I love being part of several communities. I can name the ones that nurture and support, yet I can’t help but wonder what the future will bring. What communities could you and I consider as home? We have the opportunity to shape the future – what will it be?