The best part of church for me last Sunday was the notices. Yes, you’d think that wouldn’t be a highlight of the service, but last Sunday for me it was, because I was suddenly overwhelmed by gratitude and love for my community. Probably a weird reaction to the notices, but hear me out.
The church has been sending out ‘help!’ emails over the last few weeks. We had a massive storm here (link to the big wet) and the church floors were covered with water. All of the church building, and all of the church hall. Our chapel is on slightly higher ground and didn’t get affected but the rest of the property, hoo boy.
On the Friday after the storm the call went out for help and about 80 volunteers congregated to mop up, clean up, and move all the pews and wipe the feet and put them back. It was a huge effort by an amazing team. (I didn’t go, but we had our own clean up to do.) And it meant that we could all do church on Sunday as usual. Well, nearly as usual, the floor was still a bit wet and a bit stinky, some activities had to be moved or cancelled but we did our best.
The carpets all needed to be thrown out, so last week once the assessors had assessed, the call came out again and an army of volunteers (again, not me) lifted carpet and laid some new carpet tiles so that the children have somewhere to do Sunday school.
It takes a community to be able to deal with these major life crises. But it’s not just the crises, celebrations are well taken care of by community too.
My Mum has been the music minister in another church here for the last 12 years or something and that time drew to a close last month. As part of the farewells, the church held a concert, a ‘ham and jam’ night, and I was privileged to attend.
Everyone in the church who wanted to had been invited to perform and that gave the night a flavour that was unique and completely inclusive. We started with a fanfare and a piece by the church choir, then Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude on the piano was followed by a Colin Buchanan song sung by six kids – one evacuating her nose, two singing like this was the most serious thing ever, two swaying and dancing and jumping, and one rubbing sleepy eyes. The littlest (she with the nose) stopped half way through the song, took a short break, and then started again. Beyond cute, I tell you.
A vet told some animal stories and his daughter joined him on stage half way through, smiling at all of us. He just picked her up and kept going. A young lad in a bowtie played a rag on the piano. When he’d finished he bowed, then raced down and gave his mum a high five, and then ran back up to the stage to collect the music he’d left on the piano stand. We had a stand up comedian, he was over 80 years old. He said he was past his best before date, but hopefully not past his use by date.
There were comings and goings, noises and children’s conversation but it didn’t spoil the atmosphere at all. As the night went on the children gradually disappeared home to bed, but the poems and tales, songs – funny and serious, beautiful music, and dances went on. The night ended again with the church choir. It was a beautiful honouring of Mum and a gorgeous celebration of community.
Community is acceptance, not just tolerance, but love for all different people. For the person with autism, the screaming toddler, the elderly one who chats on and on, the tattooed muscle guy, every body type, every energy level. It’s not something that can be legislated, though we do need rules to support and draw attention to those we may be overlooking. Judgement and comparison kill community, empathy is crucial.
Community is putting aside your own needs and wants for the good of others. It’s giving up a Saturday afternoon’s relaxation to clean up a church hall for Sunday morning. It’s putting others first. Not allowing yourself to be a doormat, but choosing at times to give up what you want for what will benefit others.
And community is vital for our own wellbeing. Loneliness is the new smoking, right? (Or is that sitting? Or sugar? I can’t remember). Having a community around you protects you from mental illnesses and brings you into a place where you feel secure and loved. Not that we have to attend every activity that’s going on all the time. If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know I’m not advocating that. But being a part of a family group, having your tribe, it’s important.
I must admit, I’m enjoying community a bit more now that I’m not overwhelmed by work. Maybe if your work-life balance doesn’t allow you to be part of a small group of people once a month or so then can I suggest it might be out of whack? Changes might need to be made.
Oh, and one more thing, while I’m on the subject. I have read over and over again on my author internet sites that you cannot expect the support of your family and friends. That family and friends won’t give a flying flower about your book, your launch, your writing. So I just want to say how grateful I am to you all, friends both online and in person, who have bought the books, written reviews, given encouragement, attended launch events, and passed the books on to friends. You have totally blown me away and I am so grateful for you all.
You, my community, totally rock! I am so thrilled to be a small part of such a great group of people.