In Search of Community by the Rev. Dr. Kevin Ruffcorn
A colleague I’ve never met has written about both the challenge and importance of finding a new faith community in retirement. Thank you Pastor Ruffcorn for sharing both your personal challenge in finding a new community and reminding us of the value of accepting that challenge.
For over forty years I built communities. I was a Lutheran pastor. It was important work, but it was a hard sell in North American society. So many people have believed the lie of the self-made whatever. They failed to realize the reality of what the poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, Entire of itself;/ Every man is a piece of the continent,/ A part of the main.” I’ve seen the truth.
The importance of community can be easily observed, if we open our eyes,
- After thirty years of marriage, a women becomes a widow with a missed beat of a heart. Her faith community surrounds her with casseroles and love. They are her life line not only during the crisis of death, but through the chronos of grief and of putting the puzzle of life back together.
- Over the months and years, members of a weekly small group Bible study provide the support and accountability for each to grow in his or her faith.
- Pounding nails together in a Habitat for Humanity build, a church group experiences the riches of using their time and talents to enable others to have what the builders take for granted.
- Adults in a congregation become witnesses and mentors to teen-age youth, when the youth rebel against their parents and ignore their advice and direction.
We need one another
Yes, we need one another. I recently rediscovered this truth, when I retired. My wife and I had to leave the congregation/community we had worked to build over the past fifteen years. We felt that we had been cast adrift on the raging seas of life. We no longer had the luxury liner of our congregation. We only had a life raft and ourselves—lonely times.
Finding community is not easy. It takes work. Will Rogers once said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” This may be true. I live in a community with six foot cinderblock fences. They may make good neighbors, but they make lousy communities. I can’t even talk over the fence like Tim did with Wilson in the television series, Home Improvement. Few people see the need for community. Not many people have the time to build community.
Breaking in is hard to do
My wife and I have searched for a new faith community. Congregations don’t make the search easy. Most congregations believe that having an usher shake your hand is all you need to call yourself “A welcoming congregation”—that and provide coffee and cookies after the service. We haven’t felt very welcomed when the only person to say, “Hi,” and shake our hands was the usher. The coffee was appreciated and the treats were a nice touch, but it would have been nice if someone would have approached us and talked to us. That has been a rare occurrence.
Adapting to different worship styles has been difficult for us. We have grown accustomed to the light contemporary music with only the essentials of liturgy—confession, creed, Lord’s Prayer and communion—offered by the congregation we were a part of for fifteen years. The congregations, in this area of the States, which have toe tapping, hand clapping, contemporary music, are from the conservative evangelical branch of Christianity. Their theology is something we can’t agree with no matter how good their worship team plays. The more progressive theological congregations are more liturgical and so far we have found their contemporary worship offerings tepid. We continue to look. We are beginning to realize that we will not find exactly what we are looking for. Some accommodation by us will need to be made.
The search goes on
Eight months have passed and we still have not found a new congregational home and the community it has to offer. We continue our search frequently reciting these facts.
- Community is important. We absolutely need to be a part of a faith community.
- We will not give up until we find a community.
- The community we find will not be perfect and exactly what we want.
- The Holy Spirit will guide us to the community of which we are to be a part.
- We will make more of an effort to meet the people in the congregations we visit and to sample some of their ministry offerings.
If you are searching for a faith community, like my wife and I, hang in there. God is with us and the Holy Spirit will guide us. Don’t give up, because community is a central part to a full, rich, abundant life.
If you have found a community and a congregation you can call your own, rejoice! You have a very precious gift. While you celebrate, if you see a visitor at one of your worship services, go over and say, “Hello.” Make your community more welcoming.
The Rev. Dr. Kevin Ruffcorn blogs at www.aSaneFaith.com. You can reach him at KRuffcorn01@cox.net