This is reprinted from the May Issue of Evergreen Notes.
At our recent Evergreen Association Board meeting we discussed the importance of community and relationships. After all, that’s what Evergreen is all about. The community of an individual churches’ congregation is one we clearly understand. The relationships we establish within our churches are probably some of the most important ones in our lives; they are usually both deep and long lasting. The feeling of belonging and well-being we derive from our church connections generally enriches us. However, there can be a downside to these communities and relationships if they become insular.
Sociologists call it the “tribe mentality.” When you band together with like minded people, folks tend to get the feeling that their group is better, more correct, prettier, richer, smarter, better looking, higher class, and on and on. I think you get the picture. We tend to gravitate toward people who think like we do. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that except when it causes us to exclude others who are not exactly the same as our group. If you were a member of the Hell’s Angels, the difference between your tribe and the rest of society would be pretty obvious to everyone. If however we are talking about church communities, the differences seem to be much more subtle. Certainly the caucus system of Evergreen identifies differences by ethnicity and that’s not so subtle. However, as stated above, the downside of communities becomes apparent when any community acts in an insular or isolated manor to the exclusion of others.
The best way I know of to ensure that we as individuals and as communities don’t isolate ourselves is to spend time with and get to know folks outside of our community. This is not a natural act. Most of our lives are pretty structured. It’s not natural to head to a church other than your home church on a Sunday morning. You usually don’t have dinner with folks outside of your close circle of friends. Our lives tend to be in grooves, some of them are pretty deep and it takes a great deal of intentionality to break out of them. However, the rewards for doing just that can be great. You can make good friends with folks you never thought you would know. You can understand the perspective of people that see the world somewhat differently than you do. You can become a more interesting and well informed person. At that recent Association Board meeting, I challenged each person there to visit a church that was not their home church prior to the August 22nd Board meeting. I’d like to extend that challenge to all who are reading this column whether associated with Evergreen or not. Relationships are built from face to face communication, not email, not texting, not even the telephone or Skype. When the world seems to be in chaos we ask ourselves “What can I do to make a difference?” Well here is something you can do to help create a more peaceful planet. If we do this, I think God will be pleased.