Community of Christ Enduring Principles Spotlight
Blessings of Community
Has your definition of “community” changed in the last year?
I am going to go out on a bit of a limb here and make an unresearched assumption that before March of last year we had not given too much broad-based consideration to what an online community might look like. Over the last five or six years, I had participated occasionally with the weekly “Community Place” youth and young adult group based in Ontario, with off-shoots in a number of places around the church. Despite the name, and despite the expressed intention of keeping a “camp community” together between annual senior high camps, I had not really given serious consideration to the concept that this was an “online community.” After all, it was “just” online. Well – we know now what a pre-cursor Community Place has been to what so many of us have experienced during the pandemic.
All of us look forward to the time when we can once again gather in-person without distancing or mask protocols. However, our online communities (and there certainly are more than one for many of us) have enabled us to retain connection with many of our own congregation members. They have also enabled us to become part of communities constituted by persons separated geographically by hundreds or even thousands of kilometers and yet who appear to be right next door in the squares on our Zoom video screens.
We have enjoyed retreats, participated in camps and reunions, and held our mission conference online. We have worshipped online. We have even participated in sacraments online. And we have Community Place to thank for starting the “lobby” (if that is not too political a word for church governance processes) to enable authorized sharing of the sacrament of communion online. From that, as the pandemic progressed, church leadership also provided processes to perform all sacraments (except baptism) in an environment where participants were not able to be in the same physical location. The ability to celebrate the sacraments of the church online in the past several months has only reinforced the concept of community present in our online associations. These events have been sources of true blessing for the participants and for the church at large.
There are likely a few more months in front of us of using our online tools to gather for all of our church purposes and events. We all look forward to gathering in-person as soon as possible so we can truly “see” each other and share in the handshakes and hugs that go with gathering in our communities. Undoubtedly, however, we will take some of our lessons of online community with us into the future. Many people will continue to depend on those tools because of their distance from their “local” congregation. Most congregations will want to provide those electronic participation tools to ensure the participation of as many members and friends as possible can continue.
The “Blessings of Community” outlined above to provide detail to this Enduring Principle have not been ignored in the past year. We have experienced them in different ways. We have managed to honour most, if not all, of them to the best of our abilities in our online communities. May we always be thankful for the insights and learning that have occurred for us despite dealing with an unprecedented pandemic situation.
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
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