by Nate Pequette
“Faith desires to incorporate all things so that a ‘new creation’ can come to be…Christian faith of itself produces an impulse to bind believers in communion and by way of that communion to draw all spheres of life into God’s new creation.” Gerhard Lohfink
Community is a holy space that through its structures and communion of believers becomes God’s new creation in the world. It is in this holy space that people as individuals can also be transformed into a new creation, and together be part of the transformation of the neighborhood around them.
For those of us who have lived in community for awhile, we know that while there is joy, celebration, and deep friendship in this space, becoming this new creation also means there are disagreements, pain, and struggle. Sometimes it feels hard to keep going. We get tired and weary, and are in need of a voice of encouragement and challenge to keep us going. I personally have needed that voice to remind me of what we are about and give me a wake-up call to get me back on the good road of community.
One of those voices came to me in the new book, Called to Community (Plough Publishing House). It is a 52-chapter treasury of wisdom, encouragement, and challenge compiled by Charles E. Moore. It is intended to be read in one year and discussed with those in your community. This collection includes selections from Eberhard Arnold, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan Chittister, Richard J. Foster, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, John M. Perkins, and Jean Vanier, plus many more. These are people who have spent their lives not only thinking about community, but living it out. They are voices to be trusted.
This book is not a romantic view of community. It is hard-hitting to the core of one’s soul. Stanley Hauerwas writes in the forward, “I suspect these reflections will make many readers question their assumption that they are called to community. The stark reality of these essays makes clear that when we are dealing with people we must be ready to confront one another with truths about ourselves that we seldom want to acknowledge.” Every essay both encouraged and challenged me. It leaves no room for me to say, “oh, I wish so and so would read this, they need to hear it.” The writers always seemed like they were writing directly to me. A theme throughout was to embrace the ones that I disagree with or who are different than me. I wanted to slam the book shut and run, just like I often want to do with conflict. I found myself again and again realizing my own need for transformation so that I can love God, my brother and sisters, and the world in a deeper, fuller way. As I read, I received a renewed vision for our life together. I will keep this book by my bed for quite some time and read a little bit of encouragement and challenge each night to remind me of what I want to be about in our life together. I highly recommend this collection for all of us. May we all continue to be transformed into the creations that God intended.