Did community leave with the pews?

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I can just imagine what they looked like brand new. The deep brown wood shiny under the lights. The curved arms on each side smooth and supple. The faint vertical grain stretching feet after feet, interrupted only by the mini shelves built to hold a slim Bible. Even when they weren’t brand new, they were beautiful.

My earliest memories of Big Church were anchored by the pews in our stone church. The rows created by their solid forms were familiar. For the first half hour of the early service, I got to be nestled next to my mom and brother on top of that worn blue padding. I got to squeeze past my Grampy, who always occupied the aisle end of our pew, when the children were sent off to Sunday school after worship.

I spent lots of time in those pews. I sang the words printed on the bulletin insert gustily with the rest of the congregation on Sunday mornings. I wore my AWANA vest proudly on Wednesday nights with the rest of my Sparky comrades. I stole frequent glances at my jr. high crush and wrote notes back and forth with my best friend at youth group. I helped my wedding coordinator mom attach tulle and flowers to each Many ages and stages of life made their temporary home on those pews – listening, talking, ignoring, learning, wondering, and waiting.

I can’t remember when our church made the transition, when we bought poofy, interlocking chairs to replace the pews. But one week, they were gone. Our family took one of the pews home and with some reconstructive surgery, it became a seating option in our living room. I wonder now if the familiar blue color of our chairs was chosen to pay homage to our seating forefathers.

Even though my young bum appreciated the plush seat and padded back of those new chairs, I missed the pews. They were a novelty, yes, with a pocket in each back conveniently shaped for a pen and giving envelope, but they seemed so sterile, so individual. There wasn’t a sense of being hemmed in on either side by those sturdy wooden arms. I missed the closeness of too many people smooshed together in one row.

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My eyes rested on the floral fabric lining the back of the pew in front of me. So old-fashioned, I thought. But before my internal lament against patterned fabric and out-of-date seating got too out of hand, I was remembering those wooden pews in that stone church on the corner.

In a culture that clings to individualism, I want pews not chairs.

I want to welcome people into my row and not worry about how many people (or how much baggage) they have with them. I want to smoosh and make room for others. I want to feel the heat of others as they wrestle with the things they hear, see, and feel. I want to reach past my chair’s limits and get messy.

In a culture that clings to individualism, I want community.

photo credit: DaveLawler via photopin cc

The New Community

I’m beginning to realize that Christian community is quite the chameleon.  Community is a constantly evolving concept, changing just as much as its members.  On the most fundamental level, the Christian community encompasses all believers, however, the power of community lies less in numbers and more in intimately doing life with other Christ-followers.   In community, we walk these primitive roads together – carrying each other’s burdens, encouraging each other to press forward, simply, loving each other.

Leaving California meant leaving my community – a group of twenty-somethings trying to figure this life out together.  We succeeded.  We failed.  Together.  These women were my friends, my confidants, my bridesmaids, my cheering squad, my sounding board.  They still are those things, but, with 1300 miles between us, our community looks different.

Different is difficult for me.  I have become oh so aware that, as with many things in life, community has seasons.  One of my anxieties about moving to Idaho was the unknown community factor.  Who will our friends be? How will we plug-in outside of the youth group?  Will people like us?  How long will it take to develop the kind of community I had before?  Will it be the same?

I don’t have the answers (though, as far as I know, people like us…) and I’m beginning to realize that I don’t need the answers.  God is showing me how to appreciate this new season of community, to let it develop with no expectations.  He has already blown me away with what our community looks like.

No expectations looks like:

Here’s a basket full of notes and gift cards to welcome us to Coeur d’Alene and CBC.

A warm welcome extended by CBC members.

Oh, you’ve just arrived in town?  Come over for burgers!

We missed you at the church picnic.  Do you want to get coffee?

You like to hike? I’ll take you up Canfield Mountain on Saturday!

You need a couch? We have one that needs a home!

 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together (as believers), as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.  {Hebrews 10:24-25, Amp}

Not only have Tim and I been adopted into a welcoming community during this new season, we now have an excellent example of how to extend community to others.