Community From The ‘Non Communal’

Last Thursday night was mental.

First off, for those who don’t know I must explain that I live in a residential intentional Christian community with 19 others, sharing a bank account, our cars and meals together. We’re a single household ourselves but of course have a wider network of non-res friends that together make up our wider Church family.

Anyway. Every Thursday night we host a ‘friendship meal’ when we open our doors and invite friends both dear and sundry around for a relaxed evening. Every now and then we throw in a ‘wildcard’ evening to do something unusual together before the meal, whether that’s going for an after-dark wooded walk with torches, an egg and spoon race, a bonfire or whatever.

A few weeks ago Lyndsey, one of our non-community members, had an inspiration to stage a ‘non-resident’s takeover’ for one of these wildcard evenings. The idea was that it was a sort of appreciation party, and we’d get to kick our feet back and enjoy being served! So after a few of us discussed it a bit it was announced- Lyndsey offered to cook the meal and a few of the guys put their heads together to work out a plan for the night.

So last Thursday it happened. We had more people than we’ve had for a long time; I counted 54 including kids. Not record breaking, but quite full even for our big lounge.

Because those of us who live in the community house are used to hosting hordes some of us found it surprisingly difficult to not jump up and, erm… hospitalise. There was a little fretting beforehand from some and on the night I found it hard to disengage from the habitual ‘servant mode’. What’s more, we have a former Swissman in our ranks. Can you imagine the pain of his hoover-withdrawals? He was very brave and didn’t even cry.

Dave opened with a welcome and passed over to Ben, who MCd a bible based quiz, with much chortling. Finally Mark closed the intro with a prayer then the rest of the night was spent eating, chatting and gooning around. Excuse the cliché but it was a bit of a buzz. During pudding the children handed out ‘thank you’ cards to each community member. And of course, we didn’t have to do any washing up.

I heard afterwards that a friend of Lyndsey’s gave her heart to Jesus that night. That’s incredible! There was no gospel imploration, no presence-filled worship or great testimonies of change, just a Jesus family being family. Someone saw fit to throw their lot in with us, the family of Jesus.

Often what we mean by ‘community’ is our established shared lifestyle, but last Thursday we were taught real community by those of us not in that particular definition of ‘community’. Sermons, theological declarations, chains of command and top-initiated organisation can be good, but real Jesus community only really comes from people loving and serving one another for his sake, that’s what community is. Real community is shared ownership of a vision, whatever your financial situation.

So I leave you with a question. What particular opportunities does your way of life give you to love and serve, and what could you change to allow you to give more of yourself to others?

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