Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Progression of Community

Hey everybody,

I was reflecting on Sunday's conversation regarding the first installment of Rob Bell's Jesus Is Difficult series on Gossip, and I had some thoughts/questions I'd like to throw out to the group...

We've touched on these ideas before, but I want open up the discussion again on our [Emerging Desert's] progression of community. One thing that struck me about the conversation on Sunday (or the portion I was able to observe) was that a number of people identified the assumption of closeness in Rob's main points. That is to say, his teaching about how to deal with conflict and thus gossip hinged on an assumption of relational maturity or closeness. I think we have/are/will continue to witness a beautiful evolution of community within EmDes, but I still sense that there is plenty of ground to cover in deepening our relationships. Or to frame it another way, Rob's talk about conflict resolution, etc. made me wonder if we, as a community, are deep enough into each other's lives to even merit that depth of conflict resolution if one should arise (which really hasn't yet to my knowledge). Does that even make sense?

To offer an answer to my own silly question: I think we're getting there. Like I said, a number of us have committed to doing this journey together, and much progress has been made. But we still have a way to go, I think. So I guess the wrap-up questions are these:

- Is our ongoing progression of community something that simply takes time (so we should just keep doing what we're doing), OR is there some increased level of intentionality that would be good for us to collectively put into action?

- If we lean towards "doing more," what would that look like for us as a group? Of course there's a individual aspect to all of this, but should we add an element to our weekly gatherings in which we some how make ourselves more known to each other (whatever that might mean), or would that feel too forced?

Any and all thoughts are greatly welcome!


Sarah said...

What great questions, Adam.

I thought it was meaningful too that Rob's entire point hinges on the fact that we would have friends that are so enmeshed in our lives that the "do they like me or not?" mental loop is quiet.

I'm inclined to think that it doesn't just happen - increasing levels of intentionality are needed to continue growing. I know for R and I this has been a season of trying to get together with everyone outside our weekly meeting (if we haven't gotten to you yet, don't worry, you're on the list!). For us, investments of time (and meals together) feels like the number one thing that will lead to a deeper sense of friendship and knowing.

But that's something that we all do on a more individual level, and I'm really intrigued by the idea of doing something collective as well...

Thorn-67 said...

About a year after we began to meet regularly I started feeling some angst in this very regard. I remember saying to Jim, " These people are in our home for 3 hours every single week...and I still feel like I barely know them." I wondered if it would ever change...I wondered what to do about it...I wondered if it was just me?
I believe that our persuit of intimacy in our relationships has really grown especially in the last 6 months. I am also inclined to believe that it takes acting intentionally, whether communally or individually, beyond the scope of our Sunday gatherings...into meet-ups for coffee, lunch,BBQ's, weekend trips, serving in the community etc. to provide more opportunity for depth and investment into eachother's lives to truly occur.
Community is a word we throw around alot...I don't even really know what it means sometimes...maybe it is different for everyone...for me, community would reflect friendship...to know and be known.

Debbie said...

Adam... great start on a new conversation. I agree, we are witnessing and living a beautiful evolution of community within EmDes. And Joy is correct in stating community will mean different things to different people. Community will also mean different things to people at different stages of their lives. It truly does come down to “increasing levels of intentionally”, to quote Sarah. (You are all such great thinkers!)

Can we do more? Yes. Will we do more? Yes. With time.
EmDes has proven to be a community of servers. This is our foundation…action plus words. This community bond will continues to build and strengthen as we set aside time into our lives for one another, and for others we don’t know yet. Personally I believe the bonds of EmDes will strengthen as we push outward, towards others.

How will that look? What shape will take form? We will learn... in time. This process cannot, nor will it be rushed. I am glad. The time I spend with EmDes folk is often the most peaceful, and unhurried time in my week.

I exhale.

It is a good thing.

Ron said...

This is certainly a rich topic.

As for question 1, there's only so much we can do as a group to "provide opportunities" for community. We have more "official" events, but ultimately the decision to be intentional has to be made at the individual level. Imposing community from the top down doesn't work well. Some of my favorite times have been things like the birthday parties that aren't official EmDes things but arose from people genuinely wanting to see each other.

In thinking about question 2, we have some friends who insist on the value of "sharing". At the beginning of every encounter, from a large group of a hundred people to a one on one convo, a person or three is given 10 or 15 minutes to talk about whatever has been going on in his or her life recently. It's like a continuous version of the "tell me your story" opener. I have found that this creates a sense of knowing even when done in a really large group because the sharing is so personal. You feel like you really know people, even though you might only see them once a year.

Jimbo said...

I love everything I've read here so far. I've been thinking alot about what to contribute here, and keep having trouble putting it into words, but here it goes...
I'm really agreeing with Joy, that I don't really know what that word (community) even means any more. I am liking the word friend so much more. And, with any friendship, the depth of that relationship is really dependant upon how much of myself I'm willing to pour into it. If I keep my interaction surfacy, that is all I will get in the friendship. If I take the risk of uncovering myself, I can be more known by others, but I also risk turning some away.
Also, it is very important for me to listen to others (something I have trouble doing w/o interrupting - I'm working on that), hear what they are saying, and learn to empathize with them.
I've been apart of several "communities" in the past, and I can only think of one other that I've felt as at home in and known as this one.
I think we can go deaper, but that takes time, vulnerability and openness by each of us. I don't think it is something we can force as a group, but I do think each of us (me in particular) can strive for individually.

Yard said...

Adam - good stuff. As I told you before, I too have wrestled with this. Relationships; do we help them along? Do we leave them alone, and let them take their course? No easy answers for sure...

Ron and Jim, I agree that it shouldn't be forced, but maybe a subtle change would provide more depth without changing things up too much?

Specifically to your idea Ron (or your friends'), tell me if this captures it:

We've done the 'tell your story' bit a few times, but from more of a personal history perspective. It sounds as if your idea would be like the next step after the sharing one's past. We shared where we came from and how we got here, and next we should share what is going on right now. In our hearts, minds and family. We have the context from which to understand each other, and now we can venture into the "now".

It could be as simple as giving those who are willing "the floor", and listening. I can see this working at EmDes - it already happens to some degree, but nobody really feels like launching into a soliloquy without being invited to do so...

I really like and resonate with what you said about listening Jim. I find myself speaking more than I listen, or at least with more quality than I listen. I've found that you can listen to what someone is saying, and many times they are saying many things all at once, but you have to be attentive to catch the phrases between the lines. It takes energy and intentionality - and overall, it takes actually caring about that person.

I think starting something like this at the beginning of our group could help us listen a little better to one another.