The marks of a Christian Community
I wrote this over a year ago but, for some reason, never published it. I’ve just found it in my drafts and thought I would share it now.
I’ve had a brilliant summer with my (The Order of the) Black Sheep family spending time with them at a wedding, providing the welfare provision at Bloodstock and going to Greenbelt together this last weekend. I feel so amazingly blessed to be part of that community and spending this time with them over the summer has lead me to thinking about what community is and ways in which it may be possible to identify when a real community has been formed. The first mark I’ve noticed is people self-identifying themselves as being part of the community. A sign of this may be people saying “I am a…”* depending on whether the name of the community lends itself to this. Community affects our identity as we start to think of the whole rather than just ourselves and so we identify ourselves as being part of the whole. Secondly people aren’t required to attend x, y or z to be considered (and to be able to feel) that they are part of the community. They may only occasionally, or never, make it to your main worship gathering but are able to feel that they are and are treated as a fully included member of the community in whatever they do to engage with it, be that social gatherings, events etc. Thirdly there is no confessional condition to membership. The group may have a confessional statement such as a creed or a statement of belief that guides it as an organisation and many members may subscribe to this but this isn’t used to exclude people who don’t subscribe to it. The community meets people where they are, rather than expecting them to fast track to where the community is. There may be members who never subscribe to the confessional statement. I think that these are good signs that a true community is forming.