This weekend I had the profound joy of being a part of the Company of New Pastor's retreat in Louisville Kentucky. We got to go to the mothership of the PC USA, the national headquarters. But of course before we could go there, we had to drive from Pittsburgh to Louisville.
I woke up on Friday at 5:30 in the morning to drive to the seminary, to beat the traffic. Then I took a Greek midterm (aced it by the way), which as it would turn out would be roughly the only respite from driving I would be given. Then a new friend Paul and I hopped in the car and made the 6 and a half hour trek to the great bluegrass state.
The retreat itself was great, but where it really excelled was in what was not programmed. What went exceedingly well were the times that we had to ourselves, as a seminary group, to catch up, collect our thoughts, and of course enjoy the occasional shot of Kentucky Bourbon. We talked about our families. We talked about our friends. We talked theology. We complained together. We laughed together. We grew together as a group. So much so that Paul and I had a few extra visitors in the car on the way home, shown here:
And this is where the church today both gets me excited and causes me great concern. There may not be a more over-used word in our lexicon right now than "community." We are constantly "creating" new communities. We seek authentic community. We form community groups within our church communities. It is true that our culture has a deep longing and desire for authentic community, as evidenced by what most of our social networks are trying to do. But I don't think the kind of community we're thirsting for can be programmed. I think a lot of times it happens when a group of people find themselves living life together.
So maybe that's a message to the church and it's members. Instead of trying to program community, maybe we could just live life together. Maybe those of us who are programming the church could recognize that we need instead to just create space, and to trust that the Holy Spirit will show up and fill it. Perhaps we ought to invite more folks over to our houses for a shared meal. Maybe we should invite folks we wouldn't jump to immediately to join us on long road trips.
Because while we didn't find it in the programming, the community formed this weekend was the best thing I've experienced in a long time.
Grace and peace,