Community is a word that is used often and easily. Community is fundamental to human existence and wellbeing. Community confronts our human tendencies for self preservation and competition in favour of cooperation and compassion. Creating and sustaining community is critical to justice, and peace together on this earth.
Community is essential to spiritual traditions and practices. In the Christian tradition, as Jesus began public ministry, one of his first activities was inviting others to join him in this work and in community together. One of the last acts with his followers was to gather them for a meal, to remember and continue the communion/community they shared through his death to a new life together. The practise of creating and sustaining community in the Spirit of Jesus continues.
Luther House, a simple home adjacent to Lutheran Church of the Cross, has for almost twenty years provided affordable housing to post secondary students who desire to live in intentional community together. The students sign a covenant that commits them to meet weekly, to share responsibility for the common work and spaces together, and as an expression of hospitality, to offer a community meal for other students once a month. Creating and sustaining the Luther House community requires commitment and effort. It is never perfect. There are struggles living in community with others. But this intentional community holds unique possibilities for learning and growth that are realized together.
Neighbouring Luther Court was created almost forty years ago to offer a faith based community of affordable housing and care for elders. A not-for-profit housing society, Luther Court provides a “community of care” from elder day care to independent subsidized housing to assisted living to complex care and has been nationally recognized for best practices in elder care. Creating and sustaining intentional community that affirms the inherent value of each person and that holds their wellbeing as its first concern requires commitment and effort. It is not perfect. There are many challenges. But providing a community of care and support for and with elders, many of whom are nearing the end of their lives, is essential.
Luther Court and Lutheran Church of the Cross are now exploring the possibility of an intentional community of affordable housing for elders and students. Creating this kind of intergenerational community that encourages interaction and relationships between elders and students, holds great hope and promise. Realizing this dream of intentional intergenerational housing and community will require significant effort and commitment. And the unique possibilities of benefits to both elders and students would be wonderful to see realized together.
These are just three examples from my own community and experience to which I could add many more in different areas of social Justice like the Shelbourne Community Kitchen or refugee sponsorships, efforts toward truth and reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, ecumenical and interfaith relationships, and more. And all of this is possible because of a community of faith, and duplicated by many other communities of faith in this city and across the world. Creating and sustaining these communities requires effort and commitment. They are not perfect and sometimes fail greatly. But the benefits in wellbeing, in justice and peace and care for the earth are realized together. Jean Vanier, Canadian Philosopher and founder of the global L’Arche and Faith and Light communities for those with physical and mental challenges says this, “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals.” Amen to that.
Rev. Lyle McKenzie is pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria and part-time chaplain in Multifaith Services at the University of Victoria.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, January 20, 2018