What is Community?

Jeremy Chia

Published 10 February 2021

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance and benefits of community. I think the main reason is because it has been a struggle to strengthen and maintain community outside of my family during the pandemic. I wonder if this has been a struggle for you as well?

The word community has been used in so many connotations, that I’m often left in a blur when someone references it without offering context or a definition. Community can make us think of safe togetherness, shared meals, common values, and joyful celebration. It can also elicit images of sectarian exclusion, cultish behavior, and romanticized naivete.

I believe that community is the natural outcome – the fruit – of our capacity to lovingly prioritize the interests, needs, and preferences of others, even above our own (see Philippians 2:3-4). It grows from the awareness of our limitations and the truth that my ability to thrive is closely interconnected with the thriving of those around me.

One of my struggles has been maintaining connection with the L’Arche Chicago homes. It’s been over a year since I’ve physically stepped into each home. I’m thankful for the active initiative and regular contact from core members like Davey and Christianne, who check in, ask about my family, and keep me on track with work. They remind me that I am not alone and how I’m doing matters to them. They remind me that I am in community.

A prayer from Cole Arthur Riley @BlackLiturgies

“God of Belonging,
We hold close that you are a God who didn’t just feed the 5000, but you gave them people to eat with. We are grateful that you are not a God who demands a faith predicated on solitary relationships, rather, where you went community was forged. But it is hard to belong without allowing the direction of our lives to be dictated by those from whom we seek affirmation and welcome. Help us to daily discern the truth of our selfhood, allowing for insight from our communities, but not command or assimilation. Grant us that wisdom which tells us when to stay and when to find new spaces to trust with our souls. We pray that you would form communities and friendships that are harbors for safety, provision, and belonging; that we would find our freedom mysteriously entwined with the freedom of those around us.”