A recent article in the New York Times, “The Power of Community, Religious and Secular” by David Wolpe (7/2/23) discussed the reasons people are leaving faith communities. We’ve gotten out of the habit, we’ve lost the “ought to,” and we’ve lost the meaning and connections that kept us coming back even when it didn’t mean much anymore. “Spirituality” is growing widespread, but to a great extent faith communities aren’t meeting that interest. However, Wolpe found the one aspect people still seek comes down to community: connection to other people.
Faith communities—or any group really, including social clubs, sports clubs, teams, veterans’ groups—create community when people do activities together. They pray, attend vigils, drink and watch TV, talk about the old days, watch children, or prepare food. But also they do things together for the group: paint the building, collect food for families, or clean up the yard. “Giving without getting paid” or “service to the group” is what engenders the feeling of community.
People who step into the group just when the service is starting, only come for the discussion topics they agree on, or show up at business meetings to argue their side find their participation doesn’t lead to feeling they’re part of a community. “When you give, you get—but also when you allow others to give to you, you are giving them the satisfaction of giving,” said one old-timer.
Being with “our kind” feels good, but groups that succeed have to recognize the “our kind” dangers and evolve to “welcome and affirm all.” As Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco yells from the pulpit, “If God made you, we love you!” and it’s loud!
Community is work. Washing dishes, renovating kitchens, putting song books back, keeping records, putting out newsletters, dusting chairs, or taking out trash. But also, it’s calling people, listening, being listened to, and wanting the best for each other. Like a marriage in some ways.
And like a marriage, if there’s a solid core of commitment and love, you find you can tolerate personal differences and disagreements without walking out and slamming the door.
For Quakers, the community is all this, but it is also the container for the core of what we are: silent worship together with friends, each connecting in our own way to the Spirit within. Communal worship is the ultimate community. We are present together, not doing a thing, amidst the Divine, strengthened and led by Spirit, sensing ourselves loved and enabled to love others.
presented by Ellie Caldwell
The Palm Beach Quaker Meeting invites you to share Silent Worship with us in a Spirit-filled space that has welcomed worshippers since 1958, regardless of race, gender identity, or nationality.
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