This summer we have had the joy of supporting both a friend’s and a parishioner’s little league baseball teams. Not having boys myself, it has been a long time since I watched a little league game. In fact, after the first game we saw, I shared with my husband that I could not imagine giving up so much family time for one member’s extracurricular interest. He understood my hesitation, but invited me to look around. You see, with all those mornings, afternoons, and evenings at the baseball field; with the ritual of packing chairs, canopies, and ice chests; and with the repeated gathering of parents and siblings, slowly, slowly a community is formed. Parents learn about each other’s lives, siblings convert boredom into adventures, and guests are quickly made to feel welcome with a shared chair, beverage, or joke.
What those teams, especially travelling teams, have done is create a community. They have created a group of people who know each other’s stories, who share wins and losses together, and who slowly learn to talk more than just baseball – but life! They have created a community where kids do not just have one set of parents – they have a whole community of moms, dads, and siblings. They have created a community that revolves around ritual, memory-making, and maybe even meaning-making. In many ways, those teams have created something similar to what Church creates. Church too creates a multigenerational community – where every elder is a grandma, and every adult can parent children. Church too creates a community where wins and losses are shared together, where stories are known, and companionship is created. Church too revolves around ritual, memory-making, and meaning-making.
Church creates community, but uses that creation for a different purpose. The community of Church nurtures, forms, offers comfort, and creates community, but almost as a side-benefit to the main work we do. Our purpose is to shape disciples for sharing and living the Good News of God in Christ. So, while we are loved and supported in the community, we are loved and supported so that we can go out into the world to love and support others. While we share stories, wins, and loses, we also go out to listen to others’ stories, naming where we see God acting in their lives. While we participate in ritual, making memories and meaning, that same ritual sends us out to love and serve the Lord in the world. We may come for the community Church creates. But we stay because that community demands we be much more.
Today I am grateful for our many communities. In fact, I think we all need more than just Church communities to keep us grounded in the world God created. But if you haven’t been to church in a while, I invite you to give it a try. You may find even more than you were looking for!