We are all searching for it, hoping for it, falling short of it, wrestling with it. We want community. Community that is real and genuine. Community that supports and loves us. A place of safety. A place to be sent out from and return to.
Finding community can feel and be challenging. We assess the aesthetic and feel of the place. In a large city you look until you find the groups that most fits your lifestyle or your take on life. In a small town you might have to change and adapt a fair bit to fit in with the locals. All for want of belonging. In highschool I moved from big town B.C. to a village in Saskatchewan. Village means 200 people, five square blocks, no one locks their doors, and your class hasn’t had a new kid in seven years. I started wearing skater girl shoes, big loose “bunny hugs” and dark racoon eye liner. And we did this Farrah Fawcett flip out thing with our hair. Anyone else master the smooth on the top and flipped out on the ends curling iron trick? I don’t know how that crept into the late 90’s early 2000’s. Oh man, but what can you do with only 35 people in your high school? Fit in or…well, you just won’t.
So, what is the “secret”? How do we find community online, or better, in real life? And it’s not highschool anymore so let’s ditch the appearances gig.
Community begins with the ones who are already here. Each of us is a gatekeeper where we are, with the opportunity to swing the door wide open with welcome. You are a gatekeeper to a community, whether you have lived in it your whole life or a few months. You are a gatekeeper to a group of people who share the same interests as you, like equestrians or moms who drink a lot of coffee (That’s me, wanna come for coffee? Anytime, anyday). You are a gatekeeper to your family, extended and immediate. We keep the gate that opens to ourselves with our hopes, dreams, passions, and uglies.
But it’s still us. We are the ones who need to do the welcoming, the building, the inviting. We are the ones here. Stop looking for the welcoming committee, because you’re it.
Welcoming doesn’t mean going out and finding the first stranger you meet and marching them up to that gate to our heart and shoving them in. For most of us that gate is reserved for only a few after you have walked through some life together, so don’t feel like you have to invite the whole moms and babies group there. Start simple. Brings others along with you. Follow up and follow through. Learn one name. Tell the new mom where the change table is.
Community is built on these relationships, from the tentative to the strong. It all starts with the welcoming and inviting. God himself, in an abundance of love, has invited and welcomed us into a relationship with the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. A community. An expansive, unlimited, never running out of love or resources community. A community that fills us with love for others. That crashes all the gates down and bypasses the gatekeepers and brings light and love and life. This community does not check out our clothing brands, our kids’ behaviour, our professions, the activities we do, or the Bible verses we memorized.
All are invited to participate in the community of God. Jesus invited prostitutes, tax collectors, people with infectious diseases to come walk with him and participate in the community he was and is building. Jesus welcomed without discrimination or hesitation and followed up with the most amazing invitation to sit at the table with him in heaven. He is taking the gates off the hinges and building mansions inside. And maybe if we let that trio of God’s community through our gate, that last one that is so close and guarded, we won’t find the need to be patrolling. It won’t be such a check and balance to welcome others. His love is without those boundaries and will shine right on out to the street and be the welcome to others.
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All new members will receive the gift of these two printables, handlettered by Colleen Pastoor of Lemon Thistle