Spent two hours this morning at the Fernwood Community Centre with a fascinating group of people.

EmmausWe were gathered to share in an event with David Janzen of Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois and Daimon who accompanied him from Chicago where he is part of a move to establish a house church.

The event was sponsored by the Emmaus Community in Victoria, BC http://emmauscommunity.ca/

Here are some notes:

David:

What are you longing for? What is drawing you to community?

What resistance do you experience to the idea of community?

We realized after a failed attempt at establishing community that Jesus had be more at the centre of our life together. It could not just be about a lot of good causes.

Community exists on a sliding scale from thinner to thicker. On the thinner end there are communities that meet once a week for an hour and a half, everyone is pretty much anonymous and, at the end of their time together, each person goes back to their separate individual unconnected life.

At the thicker end are things like the Trappists. Jesus and his disciples and the early church were at the thicker end.

Transformation of individual lives and social networks really only happens in the relatively thick end of community.  This is because once a week is not adequate to sustain real transformation. We need a daily reminder as we go out into the world of what our commitments really are and what it means to follow Jesus.

Daimon:

I am part of a network of house churches in Chicago. We wanted to explore how it might be possible to welcome people into church who had in the past had a negative experience of church. We also wanted to explore ways of welcoming non-Christians to come and see the common table and to experience the love and fellowship that is shared around this table.

Before we came together in community we did not have shared agreement on what our practice should be. We needed to be purposeful about spending time together discerning what gifts were present among us and how these gifts we had might shape our life rather than working from some theory we had read in a book.

The stakes are high in sharing your life with other people. So we want to be responsible.

David:

There is a fringe of young people hanging around the edges of our community. They want mature Christians in their lives to help them discerning the next steps for them in Christian living. They want a community home base to come from.

Comment:

We need to return to those things that make us whole and intentional community is still the best option.

Comment:

We have come as a culture to the end of the usefulness of the “me-first” paradigm. The world is hungry for a sense of home. We need to rebuild a sense of home with each other.

I hope to be part of a group instead of being on my own but I have a difficult background that that makes community hard for me. We need to be able to practice love for one another and love isn’t needed for easy people. Love is for the difficult people.

David:

We are made for love. In the New Testament there are at least 50 love instructions. The New Testament teaches us to be with “one another.” You can’t do “one another” as an individual. One-anotherness calls for a different kind of life than the individual pursuit of wealth and happiness that is destroying our communities and our world.

We need places where people can heal.

Comment:

Introverts find community an appealing yet terrifying idea. The want to go deep but fear getting lost in the connections of community life.

Comment:

I am a very empathetic person. This makes me a good candidate for community. But I don’t know how I would continue to find my own psychic space in community.

David:

How do introverts thrive in community?

The majority of people in Reba Place Fellowship would identify themselves as introverts. There need to be ways to adjust to different personality types. We need to accommodate a variety of living arrangements. The community needs to support people in having a private personal spiritual life from which they can re-emerge into community. Our life needs to be lived in a balanced place.

Comment:

It is not only introvert or extrovert. There is also ambivert – people who engage with the world in a way that makes them look like extroverts but who need the kind of nurturing that introverts find in their personal time.

Comment:

How do you address the risk that this is just one more fragmenting of the body of Christ?

Daimon:

It is important to have connections to other communities.

David:

This may just be my anabaptist background but I don’t think God, or the world around us, are terribly upset that there are different groups within the Body of Christ.

Having said that, every community needs to be part of a community of communities. Reba Place Fellowship is part of a community of communities.

Comment:

How do you deal with people who may be struggling with mental health issues?

David:

The community needs to be clear about the nature of its ministry. Members need to ask – is this something God has given us a heart for? They may need to say that we are not sure we can be for you the people you need us to be.

Comment:

Do you have any suggestions for how the old line, established ways of doing church might be supportive of new emerging intentional communities?

David:

One of the challenges here is that we have a number of young people who want to move into more intentional community but they just do not get the denominational thing at all. It just does not make sense to them.

Daimon:

We tried to have a conversation with the Evangelical Free Church to see if there were ways we could support each other in ministry, maybe come under their mission department. But we realized that we are just speaking different languages in many ways. What they meant by church was not the same as what we meant by church and it was just difficult even to have the conversation.

Comment:

But it may be worth asking the question the other way around as well. What might an emerging intentional community have to offer in support of the established ministry of more traditional church expression?

David, your Reba Place Fellowship has actually planted three different congregations within the Mennonite denomination. That would seem to be a pretty supportive thing at any denominational level I would think.

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For more on Reba Place Fellowship see: http://www.rebaplacefellowship.org/Home

To listen to David Janzen in an interview from 2012 visit: http://emerging-communities.com/2012/08/03/28-david-janzen/

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