The scripture Joe just read has an amazing word in it for fellowship. They were setting up a society that was simple, peaceful, had integrity, was equal, communal and with it staying together in some form, hopefully here, sustainable.
But playing church can sometimes keep us from reaching this state of fellowship, Koinonia — to walk beside. Church should reflect those principles we live by because spiritual work, no matter what your beliefs are, definitely shifts to a safe place where all are equal, all are mindful – but it is also where all are authentic. And church for too long has been a place to look our best, be known for our best, and to create in society a norming culture that creates “Nice people” and among Quakers – nice quiet, active and unassuming people.
When it comes to being around church people or being at church,
Have you ever been told to “grin and bear it?”
How about “Put on your Sunday face?” or Sunday best?
How about not tell anyone you are angry with them or why? Or express any negative emotion that might make someone uncomfortable?
Other questions and whispered sayings come to mind – “They don’t need to know that about you.” “Your reputations is more important than the truth about that” “You should pretend you are happy” or “keep that in the closet?”
But to fellowship people need to be as authentic as possible and we get there by being grateful people who appreciate each other in our messiness. Life is messy/ But love is unconditional. So if we really are going to love our neighbor we need to let our neighbor be themselves completely as possible, and love them even when it’s hard to do or even when you don’t think they are being Quakerly, or Christian, or even nice. That kind of judging of people has led to the demise of the church because it is no longer a place to provide safety for each other to grow spiritually, but it has theoretically become something the opposite – a place to judge others and to be seen as good enough to pass these judgements. And that is not fellowship. That is not community – the c in our spices. That is not love, because love says “Girl you are a mess. I love you. I’m here to provide you support while you seek a deeper spiritual life.
There is nothing wrong with civility or honestly having good boundaries. .Nice is nice. We also don’t want to get into any habit of fixing each other. Not rolling in our depressed situations or not reacting with anger but with love are commonsense ideas for building a home dynamic in the church. In church it should be that you don’t fake anything. Not even to promote someone’s else’s feeling of being encouraged. So how do you do this and not be a horses patoot?
I’ve been thinking about this because I struggle with this. Maybe you do too. I know that without authenticity we stay in pseudo community.
Scott Peck defines pseudo community as a stage where people pretend to have a balanced and open friendship with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist. Pretending differences don’t exist, and pseudocommunity, can never directly lead to True Community.
In true community, the people in Community are in empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other’s feelings. Discussions, even when heated, often don’t get sour, and motives are not questioned. There are no sides. The members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Arguments are not reasons for hard feelings.
There is no place in church for things done out of anger or spite. But your honest emotions should be able to be acknowledged and respected. No one should have to fake being nice if what they feel is insulted or encroached on. Your boundaries need to be respected at all times. Theirs too.
The answer to not being the horses’ patoot lies in being grateful for every person and every gift they bring to the community. Being gratefully authentic is a skill that has to be worked on all of the time just like peace or integrity, two necessary values to the survival of any group, but that take work and practice.
Think about your stocks if you gamble on the stock market. What does it mean for them to appreciate in value? How about depreciate? We are all here to appreciate one another. The Greek for this is Koinonia, fellowship as shared participation within a community. The word in the Greek is koinonia, and it’s most often translated into English as sharing, fellowship, or communion in the bible. But it means to walk together through the bad to get to the good or community with each other. It is the C in our spices.
When someone is going through chaos what is our first inclination? There are generally two and neither show koinonia. To run or to fix them.
Only through walking through this chaos together can we ever begin to be the sanctuary church we all said we wanted to be. We want this place to feel like home to everyone. We begin to assist each other in being better people not to be nice, but because we grow to trust and love each other in a very intimate way. We look for opportunities for each other regardless and in spite of how we “feel” about someone — erasing the lines of agism, racism, classism and differences in beliefs that will become much less important than building a true feeling of community in this church. It’s more important than getting a job done or done right too. We have to let go of the goal and let koinonia be our goal.
We want to enrich the lives around us with goodness and kindness and love. We want to be available to walk beside a person in their spiritual journey, quietly being beside. When someone is messing up, and we all will, focus on the strengths and be of encouragement – and that is hard for people like me that like to see a job finished. But gratitude for one another will go a long way in building a community of Friends and a church like the first church that Joe read about in Acts. In true community discernment begins to transcend any differences. We become more interested in listening to each person as closely as possible, not vetting what they are saying with how we view the problem. Letting their reality be important to you — Appreciate them as fellow travelers on this journey to true community.
In a place of true community discernment over a problem becomes something we let God and God’s love in on, and we even leave it in God’s hands, sometiimes – if we are wise – we look for the way forward together without being unconstructive or even destructive to the relationship or the community. Our relationships become sturdy because we learn to advocate for one another.
And we keep lies and any deceitfulness out. There must be no place for dishonesty. Chuch must be different than any other institution in that our integrity and our commitment to finding that of God in each other and being in community with one another and with God in them – it transcends to a spiritual level. We begin seeking Truth with a capital T instead of a small one.
In this grateful community we can safely disagree, we can safely suppport one another’s passions, and we commit to living as a Quaker full of integrity, vetting everything we do or say with its congruence in our lives. We genuinely seek to truly know each other. We go into a gatheredmeeting much more easily in open worship. We pray for one another without even thinking about it. We will grow in spirit, we will offer encouragement and nurture to each other. Because we will be thankful for every person in the community, respecting them as persons regardless of “if they earned it” or not. Gratitude for every person and that of God in every person changes our lives into better places of community and growth.
Who can you be more thankful for today?
Who do you need to show more appreciation to?
Can you try to live authentically with one another, and with your family this coming week?