I remember it vividly. My younger 17 year old self was sitting in the pews of a large inner-city church in Auckland. The old stained glass windows glistened in the dim glow of the electric chandeliers above. The arched brick work cast criss-crossing shadows that our buildings don’t seem to have anymore. The church was quiet, apart from the speaker’s voice which was projected by the amplifiers hanging from the rafters. It filled the room with carefully chosen words as he articulated the mystery of the Three-in-One God that is the breath in our lungs. For the first time in my life, I began to comprehend that the Godhead was in community within itself. Three-persons-in-one, dancing together in perfect love, relationship, and vulnerability. The speaker said “From the start of time, being made in God’s image has meant that we were made for community. We were made for each other, to share in the community of God with one-another here on earth.”
“That’s awesome!”, I thought. But as I looked around the room at the white hipsters, surfer dudes, and young professionals in the pews around me, I started to ask myself, “where are the people here who don’t look like me?” “Why is it that none of the homeless in the inner city seem to feel comfortable enough here to come on a Sunday?” “Does Christian community only include those who I want to hang out with?”
Sometimes, despite the truth and mystery of the Trinity, I feel like the church is often a place where community is not so much a dance as it is an organised march; not so much a place of fulfilling, loving relationship as it is a primary school disco where people sit on opposite sides of the room, or dances by themselves. And sometimes, even worse, the church simply offers the same plastic promises of community as the Empire, in which we only hang out with those who look like us, act like us, dress like us, and think like us. There has to be more to community than hanging out with people that are exactly like ourselves, otherwise we end up ignoring others who are different and creating a system of those who are in and those who are not. And we end up thinking one way – never being challenged to see another side of the story we call life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced incredible, welcoming, diverse community in the church, too, and ultimately imperfect people will never be as good at loving each other as God is at loving us or within herself. Nonetheless, I’ve heard countless stories of people who have felt excluded, ostracised, unwelcome, and too different to fit into communities that are trying to model the radical love and grace of our servant King, and that needs to be addressed.
The Grace Collective Presents ‘SQUAD’ to talk about these issues and to ask ourselves some really challenging, deep, and scary questions about how we are doing community in church.
Because many of us will have heard that we are made for each other, but many of us will be asking as we get older, are we really acting like that’s true. I am captivated by the Trinitarian God; the three-in-one in perfect community, and I would like to see us as the Body of Christ better reflecting the image we bear. My hope is that we can learn to be more like these animals above, where bulls and llamas can hang out with chickens, and goats can hang out with sheep.
If you’re interested in talking more, in venting, in listening, in being challenged to live differently in community with others…feel free to come to the Grace Collective @ Crave on May 11th, 7:30pm. You are most welcome, and we would love to see you there.
Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/events/1603131770009811/.
Jeremy Harris is the Grace Collective co-coordinator at AYM, working to head up our Grace Collective events and cultivate the community that is the GC. Jeremy is also a student at Carey Baptist College, a voluntary youth coordinator, writer and poet. You can email Jeremy with anything Grace Collective-related at JHarris@auckanglican.org.nz