If You Build It

What did I say yesterday? Hoping to break 20?

Ha. We had 25 or so at last night’s Lenten meal, having to add a second table for the spillover.

My son mentioned yesterday that it was maybe an odd thing to do during Lent. He should really know better, but in a sense I get it. Some people use this season to get rid of distractions, and some will actually fast a lot. I don’t know any personally, but I hear things.

But we’re not really marking the season in that way. We’re using it to attempt community building, which is to say our particular community. And I’ll tell you why.

Call it a microcosm, maybe, although I’m not fond of that word, mostly because it’s overused. Our congregation is not particularly diverse, but then it’s small. I mean mostly white, mostly over 40, although offhand I can name a dozen people in this little church who are exceptions.

Still, it’s hard to extrapolate with such a small sample size, so I’ll just note the need. There’s a need. It’s quiet, it’s sometimes rarely mentioned, but at others it’s mentioned all the time. People are nervous, uncertain, scared, worried. We’re looking for support, for solace, for a safe place to express their feelings about the world at large. We’ve done our best to accommodate this, and the people who don’t, in fact, share the same feelings of dread. As I said, a safe place.

But we don’t need a reason to eat together, share a meal and just chat, and having a solid hour or so to do this is sort of a miracle. People are busy during the week, and the fact that we got 25 of them to come to church after work (for most) is impressive, at least to me.

 

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I’ve never been a hockey fan. There are lots of sports I don’t care about, but hockey isn’t exactly obscure. I went to exactly one hockey game as a kid and that was enough. Just don’t get it, the way people don’t get baseball (incomprehensible to me, but they exist).

But if I only had that one hockey experience, or even if I was forced by a parental hockey buff to watch a lot, and I decided from this experience that all sports were dumb, we’d probably all grasp the situation: Small sample, large opinion.

I understand not being interested in ideas of faith, of a faith structure, of tenets and commandments and creeds. It’s an awkward fit for the 21st century, this reliance on 1st-century testimony, after the fact, and that’s just the New Testament. It’s an easy mark for those who find worthless crutches or worse in organized religion, or really any awareness of things unseen.

I mean, I get it. I know what’s happened to our country at various times when that pesky first amendment looks designed to prevent free expression of religion to certain people. These seem to be not nice people, and their ideas are awful, so I can see how people want to rely on generalizations and feel smug at the same time.

I dunno. I don’t want to convert anyone. I don’t even want to argue some of the finer points, in which I suppose I could make a case that even a layman’s appreciation of quantum physics, as sciency as you can get, can imply that this is a big ol’ mysterious universe that we barely comprehend.

But I’m not all that interested in this discussion. I’m interested in what happens when you get 25 people to sit down, share a meal with people they might know well or just in passing. I’m not sure what exactly happens.

I just know that it can’t be rationalized, or folded into a neat theory of group dynamics or even faith-based actions. It’s just dinner. People have to eat.

It’s just that I have a feeling people need more than bread alone, and a feeling that I just witnessed part of what that need looks like.

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