During the week I attended the launch of My Connected Communities, a government initiative in the area of multimedia. This organisation uses the Internet to connect people together - creating virtual communities. The government is keen to sponsor such an initiative in response to the recognition of breakdown in community, leaving people isolated. My connection to this venture comes through a pioneering group called Austprem: an online community set up to support parents who have premature children. In what is an isolating experience, the Internet is used to bring these families together for care, support, information, and learning.
There is a great deal of enthusiasm in this venture, partly because of the hype surrounding the Internet and all things dot.com related, but because there is a deep yearning to reconnect with others in whatever ways we can, particularly in a world of ever-increasing speed and isolation (one wonders whether the two are connected). People yearn to know and be known, to be connected to others in significant ways.
This heightened sense of alienation provides a window of opportunity for the church. Where else today do people of such diverse ages and backgrounds meet together regularly with a common focus? Where else today can one find a people grappling openly with a command to "love one another"? In what other setting do we hear the call to higher values? To deeper commitment?
It is this sense of community which undergirds what Jesus spoke of: a new kingdom, a new family. It is in this new community that His word would be heard, and lived out. It is this community that is to be a vehicle for his grace.
Living with these ideals is a two-edged sword. They keep calling us forward, but at the same time create a groundswell of frustration, when we encounter those shortfalls which inevitably arise. (Someone once said, 'the longer you stay in the church, the more reason you have not to'). But a search in other places often disappoints: we do not see the same passion for community, nor the same vision for community which Jesus articulated.
In this launch, three thoughts came to mind:
The first two are opportunities before us, the latter a continuing challenge.
April 1, 2001