Something about community

Something about community

Most come to church communities with a collection of experiences (good and bad), expectations and ideals, and I was no different.   

About eleven years ago, I decided to start running, so I googled run clubs that were local to me, but to no avail. Perhaps it was the hilly terrain of the hills. The search did reveal one a bit further afield: BT RunClub in South Perth. I came, I ran, and it was nice and flat. A stunning foreshore landscape was enjoyed, with friendly runners of all abilities mingling post-run. 

I discovered its connection to a church community which I joined that weekend, and this is what I discovered:   

It’s a community that knows each other and knows individuals. 

It’s a community that can have a laugh, that isn’t always serious and can be honest about the realities of life. 

It’s a community where relationship thrives—whether during a Sunday gathering, a dinner table or cafe meet-up during the week, or at a camp or retreat. 

It’s a community where hospitality is demonstrated: when it’s convenient and when it’s not. Where homes are opened Sunday after Sunday to host church gatherings, lunches and dinners and where we’re reminded that we are all capable and called to practice hospitality in our own lives. And that the fruit that follows from doing this is often sweet. 

It’s a community where talents and gifts are recognised. Individuals are championed to work out their interests, passions or skills in practical ways to gift others and strengthen the church (and beyond). 

It’s where women and men compliment each other freely, confident in calling out the gold they found in each other. 

It’s a community where Jesus is emphasised as wholly what we need— finding completeness in the work of the cross. Learning over and over that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. 

It’s a community where the lavish and intimate gift of grace is relished and celebrated; it fuels conversation of a deeper and sweeter relationship with Him who sacrificed all for us. 

It’s a community where I’ve seen friends declare a pinnacle moment in their faith, standing on the banks of the Swan River (or in the backyard spa) as their friends and family witness their baptism into new life. 

It’s a community where children are known, valued and celebrated individually and corporately. Where they’re encouraged to speak up, contribute and lead. 

It’s a community where yellow Gatorade and cookies can resemble communion bread and wine if and when needed. 

It’s a community where good coffee is found. A place where I learnt to make it and where I mastered control of the milk frother to reduce the danger of milk burn to churchgoers sitting nearby. 

It’s a community that’s planted churches within Perth, each of which has had space to develop its own authentic expression and flavour according to its people and place. 

It’s a community where you can expect Tony or Sarah (our Pastors at The Big Table Carlisle) to transition from preaching to singing at any moment. They usually manage to get others on board organically, too. It’s a community with a curiously high proportion of musical ability and talent. And one where if you happen to get married, as a few people will testify, it’s likely that Simon will sort out a specially customised and memorable wedding message. 

It’s a community where we are not called to just be consumers but to be contributors. Where grace allows for a place at the table to rest if that’s the season we’re in. 

It’s a community that advocates. The First Hike Project was founded by Neil, a guy from the Big Table, who recognised the daunting feeling some faced in settling into a new country. In 2016, he instigated group hikes in the WA bush to connect people to their new landscape and with people along the way. Now clocking over 400 volunteers, the project operates nationwide, and new friendships and communities have flourished. 

It’s a community where iron sharpens iron, and staying stagnant in faith becomes unsatisfying. Encouragement is found in getting caught in the general movement – whether walking, crawling or running into what Jesus is calling us into. And then a safe and honest place to pause and orientate ourselves when we stumble or fall.

 It’s a community that’s home, where comfort has been being found in the longevity of relationships that have journeyed the highs and lows in the rawness of life and where friendships have been built to last. And it’s a place where I’ve learnt that it’s absolutely normal to hold fast in the tension (and often discomfort!) that exists in the ongoing unravelling of ourselves as we’re refined for His glory. Which is what I’ve found to be the deepest joy.   

There’s definitely more to be said. I know there’s so much more. But as this community transitions, I know that many leave richer—richer in their faith and friendships but richest in the opportunity to have witnessed other’s growth within an intimate community, the sweetest thing of all.