When I hear the ‘living faithfully, living prayerfully’ theme of this regular column, my thoughts first go to personal piety. Then I remind myself that personal piety is a gift given for service towards others, because ultimately God calls us for community.
How might we tell that a faith community is living faithfully and prayerfully? There could be many signs of this. One that delights me is when I see people pulling together around a shared cause or project, pitching in with their various gifts to share God’s love with those around them.
In my most uplifting memories of Christian communities of which I’ve been a part, people were pulling together rather than spreading themselves too thinly by trying to do lots of things. The best of the best memories are the inclusive ones: when diverse generations and/or cultures participate together. Research confirms that ‘operating as a community’ and ‘doing a few things well’ are indicators of church health (Seven Marks of a Healthy church), but nothing beats the New Testament ‘Body of Christ’ imagery. When we recognise ourselves as many parts joined together and dependent on one another for life and health, it elevates our vision above the things that might divide.
How this shared life and activity look like in real life can vary. It might look like a school being established and developed, a long-running vacation Bible school, a Christmas craft stall, a regular collection of pantry goods for distribution, or an ecumenical devotion book. Community activities, especially where we serve the needs of others, lift our spirits and ignite our creative energy.
I believe that pulling together in service is a significant element of our LCAQD missional identity. It is also true that we got through seasons where we lose our collective rhythm and start pulling in many different directions. In anxious times we may even mistrust one another and compete with one another.
At times like that, our invitation is to stop ‘doing’ and ‘producing’ our way forward, but rather to stop, admit that we’re stuck and to prayerfully listen to God and to one another. Just as God spoke to the Hebrew people when they were in exile, we cry ‘Help!’ and wait for God to guide our next steps.
Through the power of God’s spirit, all our LCAQD communities live within these faithful-prayerful cycles. May the Lord of the harvest guide and bless us in all our seasons.