This month we turn our focus towards membership of the church community. As we continue to lay the foundations for “The Eighth Day”, we pause to ask what it means to commit to membership of this emerging community.
‘Community’ and ‘membership’ are two terms that have been used liberally on the assumption (at least in the church) that they refer to one and the same thing. But many people hold memberships which bear no relationship to community: do you hold a Fly Buys card? a credit card with a rewards program? membership of a gym, or a library? There is little or no sense of connection with other people of such membership – it is in some senses irrelevant to their purpose. The church on the other hand holds community as something which is central to its purpose, albeit something which has been assumed and almost lost in recent years with perhaps a greater emphasis being placed on membership in lieu of community, or as an assumption that community follows from it.
As we explore membership and community over the coming month, we need to explore what the relationship between the two might be, and whether membership as an institutional expression carries any value today, and what it might mean if it is more than a mere institutional commitment. Is there any relationship between membership of the community and its mission? How might such a relationship impact upon the way in which we relate to each other, and to those who are not currently members of the community.
In ancient cultures the community was the vehicle by which its stories were passed on: the culture of the community and its ongoing viability were directly related to the ability of the community to keep its story alive, and hence keep its purpose focused. When innovations diminished the capacity of these stories to be passed on, the cultures began to die out.
Consider the importance of the dreamtime stories to aboriginal cultures… other indigenous cultures told their stories around the campfire, through initiation ceremonies and other celebrations. These ‘myths and legends’ served to keep the community in focus, nurturing what was important, and teaching its children.
As we focus on membership of The Eighth Day in the coming month, we have opportunity to consider the story of our community, and the community’s role in keeping our story alive.
May 1, 2005