I’ve been thinking about the concept of community lately. I think it’s because I miss the weekly social interaction I had when attending church. Even so, I’m not so sure that was really the best kind of “community”, and I think I was looking for something more fulfilling even when I was in church.
Community is roughly defined as a group of people with similar interests (like religion) or people who live in the same society. The dictionary definition really seems to sum up the experiences I had with community in the church. It seemed like we all would see each other on Sundays and Wednesdays, sing some songs, listen to the preacher, shake hands, make small talk, and then go our ways. Many people didn’t seem to care anything about the rest of your life or your interests outside the walls of the church. Sometimes there were other functions sponsored by the church- a cookout, a movie night, bowling… whatever, but again, it was “if you show up, great, if not, so what.”
It seems to me that real community cares about others, their lives, their interests, and who they really are. And that’s what I have been looking for.
About a month ago, I was sitting at my local pub enjoying a craft beer. This is something I’ve been doing for over a year now on most Fridays after work. It’s a small place, and everyone seems to know each other. There is aways stimulating conversation and something interesting going on. When regulars walk in the door, they are usually greeted by name. On more that one occasion, someone has made the statement, “I feel like I’m in an episode of Cheers.” Anyway, I was sitting there, talking with a couple who is usually there at the same time as me, when another regular walks in. He sits down and joins the conversation. After a while, he switches over to the seat next to me. We start talking and before I know it, he asks me to join a group of guys who play disc golf on Sunday afternoons. I’ve never played disc golf, but it seemed like a fun way to pass the time, so we exchanged info.
That Sunday, we all meet up at the park and play a round of disc golf. Needless to say, I sucked at it, being my first time and all, but I enjoyed it. Of the four of us who showed up, three were beginners, and one was actually pretty good. He showed us the ropes and gave us pointers on some of the more difficult shots. After the round, we walked over to the pub across the street from the park (pretty convenient, eh?) and drank beers and had some appetizers.
The next week, we did it again, but it rained, so we just sat in the pub and talked (beers, etc.)
The next week I was out of town, but everyone else played.
Then two days ago, I went and played again.
Every time I’ve gone, there have been different people. Mostly the same, but the group changes slightly each time. What happens though is starting to feel like community. We hang out, have fun, have real conversations about the rest of our lives, and even break bread together, although it’s usually “liquid bread”. These guys are normal people with no agenda (unlike church people) and they seem to be interested in the things important to each other. There have been conversations about each of our jobs, families, and other things we care about. One of the guys invited me and the wife to a get-together at his house. We met some other interesting people and actually hung out until midnight talking politics, canning and pickling, and dirt bikes.
So is this real community? i don’t know. But it seems more authentic that what I had at church. And there’s no reason to pretend I believe that exact same thing as everyone else.
Last night I was messing around on the Internet when I came across this thing called Sunday Assembly. This looks interesting. It’s been described as “atheist church”. Apparently the founders wanted a community of like-minded people to be able to come together and share common pursuits with, similar to the way they did in church. So they came up with the concept of something similar to a church, but without religion. So they meet in an auditorium, sing songs, listen to people speaking, have a moment of self-reflection, and share snacks: everything you do in church, except god. They try not to make this about anti-religion, but about celebrating life. They try to keep it positive. Here’s a quick article and video about it.
This sounds interesting. This might be something I’d like to experience. I actually looked for a local group, but the closest one is ninety miles away. Maybe one weekend I’ll take a road trip to see what it’s all about.
Either way, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I think that the strength of a community lies in its members and how they contribute to the community. Relationships, after all, are between people, and if people don’t want to tend a relationship, the relationship will be weak. I realize this statement can be self-applied to my previous christian relationships, but frankly, I hadn’t had any common belief to them for quite a while. Now that I have people with common beliefs, I feel like I can built relationships and a community that is authentic and right for me.