Thursday, February 7, 2013

this business of community

(The only picture of living in community I have taken thus far.)

One of the exciting elements of this project in Cape Town is that our leadership is committed to the concept of community. Although we are not all living in the same house, we are forming a community in which we have gifts, responsibilities, tasks, and support.

That's all 21st centuryese for: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

The lovely bride of Christ, the church, has done an abysmal job, overall, of letting the world know who we are. We try in every way except love. Without doubt, if the church had followed this one principle since Jesus left, the world would be different today and the perception of God's Family would be much better understood.

Instead, we use community to insulate ourselves--from outsiders and from one another. I found another example in Mphahlele's book (referred to in previous blog), how white South Africans misused the principle of community to divide: (but they are not alone in culpability, please)

The non-white had for years been taught to love his neighbor--the white man . . . While white preachers through sermons broadcast over the radio, told their contented suburban congregations the story of Calvary and individual salvation, white churchgoers felt committed to group attitudes and the maintenance of a mythical white supremacy. Equally, the white preacher felt committed to an ethic he did not dare apply to the necessity of group action against the forces of evil in a setting where such forces have worked themselves up into a savage national attitude said to be based on a Christian sense of justice. (p. 163, Down Second Avenue)

Community gone wrong can be a scary and destructive thing.

Here's the good news:

Yesterday I sat in a network meeting of 22 community transformation workers in various projects all with the goal of helping those less fortunate of a single township, Kayamandi. As I listened to us each tell our name, our group, our focus and vision, I saw the reality of a genuine turn-around. This was a rainbow group, and the accents were clear to almost unintelligible. But they cared.

In the middle of the mix, a young boy's plight came up: Herald's mother (not his real name) had died that morning of AIDS. Herald is nine, he is known by quite a few volunteers in the meeting, he is "in the system."  He has been living with drug-users (tic) and is rumored to be sniffing glue. The glue issue makes him unqualified for a safe house with other children; his location in the township means he may not be taken out; the responsibility of one government department precludes others from reaching in and helping him. The pain and frustration was evident. But the meeting derailed for the amount of time it took for those who knew and cared to come to some kind of decision to intervene.

By this shall all men know . . .

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