Perspectives and Levels.
On the Greenbelt Festival Facebook page a question was asked that has inspired plenty of thinking over these past few days (thank you Tony Brown). His question was with reference to the Festival itself , but since then I have pursued many trails of thought and thinking. Tony asked the question ‘when we say Greenbelt community, what do we mean by it, and how do people see themselves as a part of it?’ I will be looking at this theme over the course of a few blogs, maybe drawing a few personal conclusions, but maybe also raising many more questions than answers. What I am discovering is that community is a matter of perspective and comes at a variety of different levels at different times within our lives. It can have different replies depending on context and situation. For example in the context of the question concerning the Greenbelt community I replied with the following; “Shape-shifting, ever changing, border-less, no fixed abode or agenda, a festival of friends and strangers, something to be part of or just attend, somewhere to belong and yet somewhere to be a lone ranger, people of faith, even if it is just faith in humanity or life, for lovers of noise and lovers of peace, people, just people. Easy to join, free to leave, ever a part of the story even if you just attended one year. Community that will mean something unique to every unique person. What we need, want, give, receive, the level or depth is different for all. My desire of community is different to anybody elses. We are community because we are here. The rest is only significant to us personally. Now if church was a bit like that and not trying to level the playing fields we may find a lot more content people on the path of life.” My friend Dave Vaughan wrote this today on his Facebook page in the context of his life and situation; “Thankful for today’s confirmation of the possibility of natural, organic, bliss filled community which spans religious, racial and cultural divides and allows space for difference and reason. Yes church there is a place of gathering apart from the conference regime which is fiercely thrust upon us. (Feeling humbled by those who love and make room for a manifestation of humanities oneness.)”
Birthed Into Community.
From the moment I am born I am a significant part of community. From the community of my family, whatever shape or form that takes; two parents, single parent, only child, siblings, adoptive family, to the community in which I live. I live here in Penygraig in the Rhondda, I am part of this community, whatever my contribution or lack of contribution, just because I live here. I may talk to everybody or talk to nobody. I may shop locally or shop in the city. I may be employed, unemployed, a student, alone, part of a family, young, old, got my life together, got a life screwed up by drugs, whatever the scenario because I live here I am the community. I am birthed into one of these communities. These communities exist without choice for us. They can shape us, make us, break us, cause us to thrive or crush us, but community is something we cannot escape from. The community circles then increase as we begin in the educational system, and start that journey towards whatever we become in life. Again our school is chosen for us, and another community becomes a huge part of our life, again shaping how we think and what we should think, and how we should arrive at those conclusions. Even up to this point; our family, our home, our education, we need to ask ourselves how much of our self is created by the communities of life surrounding us, and how much do these communities really allow us to become our true, free thinking selves? In this context is community more of a hindrance than a help?
Shaped to Fit In.
My upbringing shaped who I am, and what I believed. My grandparents were staunch church goers, so was my mum, and that ended up with me being a church goer. I heard the stories of faith she would have heard as a child, and what her parents probably heard as a child. My community of family built for me a picture of faith and belief that was good for me, acceptable, moral, right, correct, and certainly not one to be argued with. As a child I then became part of a faith community that I was forced and expected to be a part of. There was no option to think of differing perspectives, what was said by those in the pulpits was truth. The right way to interpret stuff. It built into me a healthy perspective of morality, but also a fear that I best not be disobedient and do stuff out of place. This fear of man remains to this day in my life. Not that you would believe that with what i write sometimes but I can rip myself up inside when someone disagrees with me. My faith community and my family community built this within me. We are shaped to fit in with everyone else, and not rock the boat, or question anything, especially those with so called authority. This church community I did walk away from when I hit my teenage years, but it did not walk away from inside me. That is probably why I have never smoked, got drunk or taken drugs, even during my few years of so called rebellion, because community caused me to try and fit in.
Try to Belong.
We spend life then trying to find peers, or groups of people we belong to. Mine was through my band and my love of music. Others find a sports team, companions to travel with, chat with, gangs, other faith and belief groups. The church tells us we need to belong there once we believe. Others have said when people find out they belong they will then come and believe. Life can be one long journey to finding out if we truly belong somewhere. Maybe all these people really needed to discover is that they belong exactly where they are right now, they do not have to belong to anything else. Each belonging has ideals to shape us with. Every community wants to assimilate us into their hive. Any community that tries to assimilate us steals our core identity and DNA. I think we need to stop trying to belong somewhere and wake up to the fact that we do belong because of our simple existence.
Next time I will look further at the subject of faith communities and why I believe they actually do the community of the Body of Christ a great disservice. Why they rob us of what they are actually trying to give to us. Why our faith should be serving the communities we are a part of and not creating one to take us out of.