Thursday, August 15, 2013

Community Finds You Wherever You Go

Justin and I have been living in intentional community for just over 8 months now.  It's been a beautiful journey full of all the things that make up beautiful journeys--bumps in the road, voluntary and involuntary time taken to stop and "smell the roses," some misdirection and turn-arounds, and great companions along the way.  Definitely a time where we have learned to embody even deeper the lesson that the stories and the journey are much more important than your destination.  And, really, what is a destination but a momentary pit stop on a much larger path?  But, I digress.

For these 8 months, every Thursday night we have had Community Meal, a time when we invite friends and neighbors to come and partake of a home-cooked meal and enjoy fellowship together.  It's a time when we practice giving and receiving hospitality, when we remember the sacred ordinary-ness of gathering around a table together.  In all this time, the only Community Meal we have missed was a Thursday night when we didn't have Community Meal because of the 4th of July.  Until tonight.  In practicing what we preach about taking Sabbath, Justin and I got away for a few days to a Bed and Breakfast out in the Texas Hill Country run by a ministry seeking to provide Sabbath time for ministers (if you are ordained clergy, speak with us--we can hook you up!).  Because of what they had available and our time window for getting away, we realized we were going to have to miss Community Meal.  But, again, practicing what we preach--Sabbath is important, as is allowing that you are not so important to any process that it can't happen without you.  So, away we went.

We have had a great time, particularly enjoying the chance to be real introverts and read all day.  I'm not kidding.  This is the best place EVER to vacation if you're an introvert because it is totally acceptable AND possible to read all day and not be disturbed.  We have had exactly the kind of vacation we needed.  We've finished books, started books, gone antique shopping, set our own schedule, talked when we wanted to talk and been silent when we wanted to be silent.

It also hasn't been lost on us that in going on vacation, we also stepped out of the rhythm of communal life.  We would have to be more intentional about doing morning prayer since it's just the two of us--which we have done--and we would miss the weekly meal that has become so vital and sacred to us.  Interestingly enough, though, there's this thing that happens when you practice something long enough--it moves from an enforced practice to an embodied presence.  I have organ pieces that I have practiced so much, they are part of my hands in a way I can't even begin to explain.

We may be away from our intentional community, but communal intentionality seems to have followed us.  

At breakfast this morning, we met a couple who do ministry with the United Methodist Church in Houston.  What started as polite conversation over breakfast, turned into a 2+ hour time of togetherness swapping stories, letting wisdom flow between us, becoming encouragers and supporters of the various ministry places we find ourselves.  Community happened.  We invited this couple and the chaplains of the B&B to dinner with us tonight, and though the couple wasn't able to come, the chaplains did.  What followed was another 2+ hour conversation in which the potential barriers of age, experience, and denomination melted away, making room for deep communion and companion-ing as we saw how similar our current life situations really are and allowed our stories to bolster and challenge one another.  Community happened.  Community happened, and it happened over food, gathered at a table.  As we gave our bodies life and joy with good sustenance, we opened ourselves to the soul-sustenance we find in community with one another.  

One of the books I've been reading on vacation is Henri Nouwen's With Burning Hearts:  A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life.  As with most things Nouwen-related, I recommend reading the whole thing.  It's worth it.  You just don't get the nuance if you only quote a small portion of it.  But, I'm going to do it anyway.  Nouwen speaks about the encounter the disciples walking the road to Emmaus have with Christ on their journey and in the breaking of bread.  This is what Nouwen says about Communion (both the practice of the Eucharist and the coming together of like minds):

Communion creates community.  Christ, living in them (the disciples), brought them together in a new way.  The Spirit of the risen Christ, which entered them through the eating of bread and drinking of the cup, not only made them recognize Christ himself but also each other as members of a new community of faith.  Communion makes us look at each other and speak to each other, not about the latest news, but about him who walked with us.  

It is both a blessing and a challenge that when you approach creating community with intentionality, there comes a time when it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.  As our eyes are opened and our hearts made ready to receive it, community becomes not a place or event, but an attitude and an awareness.  And praise be that in the goodness and wisdom of the Triune God who lives in constant divine togetherness, the simple act of breaking bread and sharing the cup--eating and drinking--can create a mundane-divine space for our communion to grow.