Rev Chris Grasske

POPE FRANCIS has urged Europe to focus on its founding principle of being a community.

He went on to say that the word ‘community’ was “the greatest antidote against the individualism that characterises our time”. And that perhaps the greatest contribution Christians could make to society is to remind everyone that community is not a mass of statistics or institutions, but is made up of people and people have faces, and that forces us to assume a responsibility that is real, personal, and effective.

I looked up the word ‘community’ in the dictionary and it says:

• A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

• The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.

• A group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified

All three of these talk about group and sharing, a togetherness and having things in common. I think these definitions apply at all levels, national, regional and parish. One thing that we all dislike is being a statistic, just a number. It is easier to be an individual person in a small organisation, but as that grows, so does the risk of becoming lost in that organisation. It is easy to lose the fact that our community, however big or small we decide it should be,  is made up of people. Statistics are soulless, and can only relate to an overall trend. They offer an alibi for not getting involved, because they never touch us in the flesh. When we hear about the shocking rise in the homeless in our country, our media is good at highlighting large numbers, but they know that the message only hits home when they  focus on one person or family as a representative of the number. They need to be given credit for this, because it does work, especially when we risk ‘disaster fatigue’ for want of a better phrase.

To acknowledge that others are persons means to value what unites us to them. To be a person connects us with others; it makes us a community. I cross several communities in this benefice, some people like to focus on their own small area, some like to focus on the whole. Yet however we are minded, the message is that others who may disagree with you, or have a different outlook, are people, and not just a number, or the ‘enemy’, to be trampled, expelled, ignored or converted to your (my?) point of view.

And it is people that are at the heart of the message of Christianity. Time and again we see Jesus criticizing leaders for promoting self-interest above others, not caring for the vulnerable or disrespecting people who think, act or look different. The message of Jesus is one of working together for the good of those around us. That’s what truly forms community. Community is formed when people meet together, talk together, spend time together.

Community does not have to be geographical, although it often is. It can also be attitude or interest focussed. Evidence of interest based community can be spotted quite easily, just have a look at the ECV diary, http://www.eggardon-colmers-view.org.uk/welcome/ diary.html and it will show a huge variety of events ranging from table tennis to family history, from railway modelling to yoga.

From a sociological point of view, human beings are meant to be social people, so if you are feeling lonely, consider joining one of the many groups that exist in your area, they are so often places that cheer you up, make you leave with a smile.

Jesus condensed the Ten Commandments into two – ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbour’. Neither of these talk about self-aggrandisement, self-promotion, striving to get wealthier, but about doing things to improve the lives of others. Belonging to a community improves both your own life and that of others. Go-on; join an interest group that you fancy. It’ll make you and those you meet feel better.

Rev Chris

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