Being Community, Better

I want a church where you really belong.  Where you are known and cared about. Where you are challenged, encouraged, listened to and where you grow.  I know church can be like that. I’ve seen it. The best community I have had in my life has centered around Jesus.  There is a real community with other people in knowing and loving Jesus. And yet, the most awkward, painful, exclusionary, combative and upsetting community experiences I have ever had, have been consistently in the church.  Because this is true for me, I have searched long and hard to better understand why being church can fail so miserably and continue to seek to discover what will unlock our ability to truly be “together” in Christ – to belong to one another. 

Have you ever been in search of something that persistently eludes you?  I have so admired Rachel Held Evan’s work at getting clear with herself about what the church’s core gifts and opportunities are to build meaningful, accepting and vibrant community.  In her book, “Searching for Sunday,” you can walk with her through her personal journey and at the same time, explore your own sense of searching for “church” where you feel welcome, at home, yourself and alive to God. Her sense of the gifts and core values of church are a rich theological and very concrete / personal expression of vibrant community.

I invite you to follow her journey through “Searching for Sunday,” so that you too can become even more clear about the opportunities for discovery, renewal, fulfillment and belonging that can be alive to you in church and in the community.  Perhaps we too are searching for new and deeper fruitfulness in our church and interpersonal lives.

Who doesn’t want to have a sense of true belonging?  If we were going to grow or create a deeper sense of true belonging in our congregation, what would we need to know about ourselves and about true belonging?  Brené Brown has powerful answers for those questions in her courageous book, “Braving the Wilderness.”  We would do well to make this book a primer for how to handle conflict, speak for ourselves, keep good boundaries and forge strong ties and keep them strong.  Why don’t they teach us this stuff somewhere so we can be prepared to be community, to be the church and to belong to one another? I think it is ironic that we seek Jesus at church and still manage to fail to learn how to be community together.

“Braving The Wilderness” is consistently the best discussion and guide for dealing with virtually every difficult experience I’ve had in community and society, including the church.  I wish we could all read it and begin to work together at becoming a place (a people) where grace and true belonging thrive.

My friends, my siblings in Christ, my community of hope in Christ, I am very proud of so much that we are and so much that we do together.  I also am hungry for us to deepen our connection and sense of belonging to each other. Both Rachel and Brené’s writings have the potential to nurture each of us along this journey to being available and present to each other.  Pick up a copy. Listen to the audio book. I’ll keep a few hard copies around, too, if you want to borrow one. We are a people in mission and that journey takes us into each other’s lives.  This is how Christ builds the church. One to another.

Pastor Mitch

New York Times best-selling author Rachel Held Evans embarks on a quest to find out what it really means to be part of the Church. Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals – Church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back. And so she set out on a journey to understand the Church and to find her place in it.
Centered around seven sacraments, Evans’ quest takes listeners through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.
A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.
A timely and important new audiobook that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the number one best-selling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection.
Hello Sunshine book club pick
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives – experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.
Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”
Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
Words for this time in our community, in our Nation and in our hearts.