Life in Community

By Rev. David del Valle

Richard Adams, in his book Watership Down tells the story of a warren of rabbits that used to tell one another rabbit stories.  They would tell of the great mystical prince of rabbits, and how he would appear and disappear, escaping perils and dangers.  As a result of sharing theses stories with one another in community, these rabbits were fast, quick and cunning, which you have to be in order to survive in a rabbit world.  One day this warren of rabbits decided to go in migration in search of other rabbit communities and they came upon a community of rabbits that did not know rabbit stories.  As a consequence this community of rabbits had grown fat and slow.  And we all know that rabbits that are fat and slow find themselves in a skillet or the mouth of a predator.  Essentially this is a story of community – that place where stories are exchanged, where our souls come to be exfoliated.

The Church is a community of faith, the called out to worship God and minister to the world community.  This community of faith provides the context for our individual stories, as well as the story of the community to be brought together and transformed by the story of Jesus Christ – a story par excellence.  As such the Church, the community of faith, provides a setting for those without voice to be heard.  This is realized by the fact that this is a fellowship, a community of redemptive love.

Christianity is basically concerned with the matter of relationships – God’s relationship to us, our relationship to God, and our relationship to one another.  Our relationships deepen as we get to know and appreciate one another’s story (do a word study on “One another” in the Bible and see what you come up with).  This I believe is the goal of genuine community.

We must also be aware that there exist false or pseudo-communities.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together poses an important caveat to us, “Those who love their dream of Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community, even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.”  We must keep in mind that in Nazi Germany there existed, side by side two churches, the confessing Church and the professing Church; one a genuine community of faith, the other in league with the state apparatus.  There have always existed false or pseudo-communities, from the community of Nimrod in Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), to the community of the Roman pagan state (Romans 1: 18-32) and even to the Aryan community of Hitler’s Germany.

It is in the context of genuine community where we are called to be transparent, authentic human beings who are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1).  We are called to be imitators of the perfect community exhibited in the Godhead – the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  It is the goal of true fellowship (koinonea), that we associate and partake with one another.  We share in, distribute and impart to one another.  Now, what is it that we share, distribute and impart to one another?  We share and impart our lives which are to be opened to one another, our hopes and aspirations, our brokenness and failures, all these and more we bring to the community of faith.  Doing this crates an atmosphere where genuine community can take place.  Those who are called to lead and those whom we are leading all have a stake in making genuine authentic community a reality for all.  The challenge is great, and may seem impossible, “but with God all things are possible.”


  1. nice, cozy place you got here :)..

  2. Brother David,
    Thank you for sharing. I apologize for not commenting earlier I have truly been undergoing the exigencies of being a manager/leader.
    You are “right on” when you address the issue of “pseudo-community.” So much of our engagement is lamentably encrusted with layers upon layers of “constructed selves” or “defense mechanisms” conducting pre-emptive strikes in order to protect the hidden, often fractured selves buried under years of pain, shame, brokenness and even religious notions.
    M. Scott Peck in his book, The Different Drum, speaks of Pseudo community and stages necessary to create authentic community. He says that “chaos” is a precursor to authentic community–it is the stage where people let down their masks and truly begin to share what they feel. It is often uncomfortable and even confrontational yet brings us closer to truth and intimacy. Some never reap the joys of authentic community because they do not want to ride the turbulent waves of chaos.
    I pray that we learn to “speak the truth in love” so that we can move from the shallow waters of mere religious culture to the depths of spiritual intimacy.
    Thank you once again for your contribution.
    David Ramos

  3. Guile,
    Thank you, please feel free to contribute to our discussions.

  4. Arnaldo Mejias

    From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
    Two friends, both former Catholic seminarians, independently of each other, asked me how researching and putting together my photographic book on churches in poor urban neighborhoods had influenced my own search for meaning and changed my life. One asked if I would continue to go to churches on Sunday or settle on one church and become a member. The other … felt as if I was about to convert. Their questions and assumptions caught me by surprise, since I feel that I am an ultimate outsider and therefore immune to Christianity. I explained that I had just turned 60 and now, set in my “worldly” ways, didn’t expect a rekindling of religious feeling.
    Yet I had been immersed in a world where saving souls (including my own) is the most important thing a person can do. On many occasions I had been asked to disregard public opinion, and right then and there accept Christ as my Lord and master. For four years I had been attending Sunday services, Bible school, choir rehearsals, revivals, and anniversaries in the nation’s poorest urban neighborhoods. I attended services in basements and on the second floor of former factories, places I was able to find only by the noise of rattles and the preaching and the energetic singing that came from inside. I drove nights through desolate streets looking for houses of worship with their lights on. … I felt close to strangers as they testified, and observed poor people as they were being fleeced out of their money.
    I searched for places where the homeless, the drug addicted, and those recently released from prison go for food, shelter, and clothing, and get those things plus religion. Newcomers are given a grim view of humanity. Hungry and sleepy visitors to the Emmanuel Baptist Rescue Mission in Los Angeles were told: “It is in the heart of men to do evil.” …
    I met many people who assured me that God had spoken to them. I enjoyed listening to pastors who mixed American practicality with zeal to save souls. Among passionate preachers I found many who in their sermons combined their religious views with witty stories about human follies.
    My life will be duller if I stop visiting these churches. I will miss faith healing, speaking in tongues, and meeting people who believe that the spirit of God is in their sanctuaries and who treated me as a friend. I will be curious about new preaching styles and ecclesiastical fashions. I will miss the church buildings, their artifacts, and the food prepared in them. And I am certain that I will find myself humming “There are souls to rescue, there are souls to spare” … when I least expect it.
    How could I hear promises from an “awesome God” with the power to give eternal life and to eliminate suffering and remain unaffected? In these houses of worship I found an oasis from a world obsessed with celebrity, youth, possessions, and status. If I had felt it in me, I would have repented, become a believer, and perhaps I would have walked with God.
    The photographs and text are by the writer and photographer Camilo José Vergara, from his book How the Other Half Worships, published by Rutgers University Press. Photographs and text from his current project, on the cities of Camden, N.J., and Richmond, Calif., can be found online at
    Section: The Chronicle Review
    Volume 52, Issue 22, Page B19

  5. Arnaldo Mejias

    Excerpt from & Slate:
    Get Lent: Protestants do the sober season.
    By Andrew Santella
    Posted Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, at 12:22 PM ET
    If you grew up, as I did, thinking of Lent as the Time of the Frozen Fish Sticks, you can’t help but be surprised by the expanding enthusiasm for the pre-Easter season of penitence and fasting. Lent, it seems, isn’t just for Catholics anymore. Over the last few years, more Protestant churches have begun daubing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in Western Christianity (March 1 this year). Fasting, long familiar to Catholics as a Lenten fact of life, is increasingly popular with evangelical Christians striving for spiritual awakening. A few mainline Protestant churches even conduct foot-washing services on Maundy Thursday—the traditional commemoration of Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples—that takes place on the Thursday before Easter. Which seems like a sign that Protestants may be starting to beat Catholics at their own game.
    The showy practices typical of Lent—fasting and vigils, ashes and incense—once helped define the split of the Reformation… While no one’s ready to declare an end to 500 years of ecumenical disagreement, the widening appeal of Lent reflects the interest among believers of all kinds in traditional ways of worship.
    The Swiss Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli mounted one of the first protests against Lenten traditions in 1522. Zwingli defended Zurich printers who insisted they needed their daily meat to have the strength to do their work properly. He complained that the rules of Lent had more to do with obeying Rome than with obeying the Gospel, which, after all, said nothing about whether or not to eat sausages in the weeks preceding Easter. Martin Luther cautioned against fasting “with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work,” arguing that Catholic teachings gave believers the false idea that fasting could cancel out sin and win points toward salvation. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin criticized Lent as a “superstitious observance.”
    So, how did Catholic Lenten traditions spread across the border? For one thing, the boundaries between traditions are not what they used to be… Catholic liturgy has appropriated pop music and hand-holding in evangelical style. So, maybe it’s not that surprising that more Protestants are now dipping into the well of Catholic ritual and devotions. In that sense, Lent may be part of a trend: Check out the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary, which recasts Catholic devotional beads for Protestant use by eliminating those troublesome Hail Marys.
    Observing Lent is also part of a Protestant move in the last generation toward more classical forms of spiritual discipline… Some questing Protestants started making like monks, practicing silence and solitude. All this was made more palatable by the improved relations between Catholics and Protestants that followed the Second Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s.
    Perhaps it’s the things that made Lent hard to take as a Catholic kid—the solemnity, the self-denial, the disappearance of hot dogs from the lunchroom—that account most for the season’s broadening appeal. I was schooled to see Lent as a time apart, a respite from the daily pursuit of self-gratification… our shared affection of late for some of the old ways of worship represents a small victory for mystery, ritual, and awe. Now if we could just come to ecumenical agreement about the evils of frozen fish sticks.
    Related in Slate
    In 2005, Daniel Engber explained why Lent dances around the calendar every year while Christmas stays on the same date. In 2004, Rachel Deahl tackled how Marshmallow Peeps became an Easter tradition. In 2000, Michael McGough debunked the myth of anti-Catholicism and David Plotz described how many different groups have embraced St. Patrick.
    Andrew Santella writes from Illinois. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Commonweal, and GQ.

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