The meaning of community

communityI’ve always lived in communities that were larger towns and cities—Fayetteville, NC; Nashville, TN; Tampa, FL—places where you can live your everyday life in anonymity concealed in plain sight by the multitudes. But living here in Laramie these past months, I’ve come to understand a different sense of community. Here you are more likely to run into people you know going about their business at the grocery store, the post office and just around town. You stop and chat for a minute and then move on.

But sometimes I wonder if that is real community either.

In his book, “Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life”, Abbot Christopher Jamison describes our modern concept of community as lacking the original connections that this word was meant to engender in us. In this digital age, we are now so much more individually independent. If we buy a bike, suddenly we are part of the “cycling community”. If we get a new job, we are now a member of the “professional community.” But just making a purchase or joining a new profession doesn’t mean we have truly invested ourselves in the lives of others. Or as Jamison puts it, “I can claim to have joined a community without having to do the more demanding work of engaging personally with other people: I literally buy community on the cheap.”

This made me think about how much are we as a congregation working to connect personally with other people in this community… and how much are we “doing on the cheap”? Are we practicing the real meaning of community when we only gather with one another for worship, but do not turn outward to meet the needs of those on the margins? Are we participating in the mutual lives of ministry if we only read about the actions of the Rocky Mountain Synod and the churchwide ELCA, but never make an effort to contribute our resources to these causes?

As a people of God we are called to be disciples bringing healing and wholeness to the world. How can we do better at being about God’s work in Laramie? How can we extend ourselves beyond the walls of our church and truly be in “community” with those most in need?

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Squishy and JenniferJennifer Michael is the intern at Trinity Lutheran Church in Laramie, WY.  She and her pug Squishy are often seen walking about town and enjoying the people and sights of the mountains.