Last night I attended the first reunion of my high school class – a journey in education which was completed nearly 30 years ago. I had barely seen a single person since finishing and moving on to university. It turns out I was not alone. We had been dispersed into the wider community following high school, and continued quite separate lives. In the days leading up to the reunion there was a growing sense of excitement… where had life taken us? would we recognise one another? what of those with whom we had conflict?
From the moment the first groups entered the room, a buzz of excitement and conversation emerged, growing with the numbers. Connections were made and re-established with ease, some with a simple look at the face, and others by looking at the name tag! It was fascinating to see the way people who had not seen each other for 30 years were able to pick up and carry on as though they had last seen each other recently. Sharing of memories lead to sharing of stories, as we pieced together our varied journeys. The six years we had spent together (some longer, as we had attended primary school together) established a rich bond which has lasted. As one person commented, “Our years at school are carried in our heads and our hearts, and everyone with it.”
I gained a new sense of community last night. Some of the people I was not close to at school, others I was in conflict with at different times, other friendships had waxed and waned, and others admired from a distance. And I was not alone. I sensed a need to “set some things right”, as the years have made us realise the stupidity - perhaps naivety and innocence - of our actions. To be able to laugh together about many of those misdemeanours and poorly formed intentions is somehow healing and releasing, and life-affirming. We have been allowed to grow and to “place a marker in the ground” affirming that growth, yet at the same time known in our raw reality. We were “real” people a broad sense.
I sense there is something important in a community which allows us to test ourselves and our limits, to learn relationships, to experiment with who we are and what we might be, and not just for our pre-adult years. It is a part of the gospel story to rediscover ourselves and be remade in grace: for Simon to become Peter, Saul to become Paul, Onesimus to be seen as someone able to contribute, and to be welcomed as part of the community, with all our warts and flaws known and keeping us real.
It is a significant challenge to become a safe community where we are able to test and to experiment, to fail and to restore, and in so doing to grow in our understanding of who God has made us to be.
April 2, 2006