Reaching across the aisle
Community. A concept that discribes our need for other people. A sense of belonging. The church is great at being trendy these days. Church words also trendy are: Missional, emerging, authentic, simple, purpose, mystery… Good words reaching deep into our souls and pulling out the longings of our heart to live out an intentionality that comes from faith.
So I was thinking about “community.” Where have I felt most part of a community? I had to honestly reflect that it wasn’t in church. The deepest sense of community I have felt was in my high school choir and then in the high school and college football teams I played on. Each community was unique but shared some qualities:
A shared love of something larger than us.
In choir, we loved music. We set our individuality aside to develop a rich, full sound that was unified. Our director seperated us from our other voice parts (tenor, alto, bass, soprano) in order to have a full choir sound, rather than pockets of vocalists singing the same parts. We sat next to other vocal
parts several weeks before and then during performances.We learned to really hear the parts surrounding us. In the process, we learned how to adjust our voices to those next to us, lowering the volume of our individual voice and blending our voices with each other. We practiced give and take. In so doing, we could more fully participate in hearing the music we were making. To relish the chord structures and sounds the composer intended.
A shared sense of mission.
Both groups of people shared the goal of performing well. We didn’t want to let down the other members of the group, our choir director/coaches, or our audience. So we put in long hours of practice and preparation to do the job well and reach a shared goal.
A realization of the value of each other.
No choir member could sing all four parts by themself at one time. Their part fit a larger whole. No player could throw the ball down the field and catch it at the same time. Every position player was needed. In football, that was especially true in practice. Every member of a team has a responsibility to the rest of the team. Each person must do their job so all efforts build upon those of others to reach the common goal.
The truth of the value of every member of the community was defined to me on my high school football team. Lonny was one of my teammates. Lonny wasn’t big, he wasn’t fast, he wasn’t overly talented. But Lonny LOVED football. He loved to hit. Everytime you lined up opposite Lonny, you knew you were going to get hit. He didn’t win every, or even most contests
against bigger and quicker teammates, but if you didn’t work hard everytime you went against him, he could make you look really bad, because Lonny ALWAYS worked hard. I think Lonny figured out early that the way he could be the biggest asset to the team was by making everyone else better. He never started, but did play on some special teams. His was the loudest voice on the sidelines yelling encouragement and the first to congratulate a player making a great play.
Lonny. His committment to the team was the glue which held us together, and wouldn’t allow us to quit, or fail to prepare each week. I figured my ballot would be the only one, but I was pleased, surprised, and satisfied that my teammates agreed with me. Lonny was elected the most valuable player. We all reailized how important his attitude and passion for the game and our team was. He both pushed all of us to be better and pulled us out of ourselves.
Honestly, sometimes community is uncomfortable. We irritate each other. We let each other down, too. Sometimes the note we sing is out of tune or the player for which we are responsible slides past our block and hits the quarterback. We tire of constantly making up for the shortcomings of others, or battle the disappointment of our own failures. This, too, is the nature of community… Living in the messiness of life.