In an age that is designed to distract us from looking one another in the eye and speaking face to face, the value of communing cannot be overemphasised. As I travel the country I am beginning to see pockets of contagious student communities meeting and living in small groups spurring one another on in pursuit of Christ. We are addicted to devices and projects that make us think we are connected without touching the great void in us longing to be known. Community must be worked on and thought about intentionally. The story below is written by Karen to inspire and challenge us about living in genuine community.
"When I moved to Bath nearly two years ago to start a new job as a chaplain to University students, one of the things that I was most excited about was that one of the Methodist churches in the city was open to the idea of transforming a property they owned into an intentional Christian community for students.
This was the first open door, but many others continued to open. A small group emerged in the church, meeting to share meals together and to talk and pray about this new idea. What became clear was that we didn’t want to only create community for students, we wanted more community for ourselves.
This group, and others, raised money and coordinated refurbishment work while I spread the word around the two University campuses. We had no idea who would apply to live in Christian community in the house and were blown away by the 8 strong applications from students representing 6 different churches in Bath.
The students moved into the house in September and the work of forming community began. They meet to pray together on weekdays and are working out the best ways to share meals together. They are still part of their own churches, but we gather together as an ‘Extended Community’ once a month to pray and share a meal together. All of us, students and non-students, have written our own ‘way of life’ under the headings of ‘Open to God, Open to each other, Open to God’.
It feels like we have got off to an amazing start, covered in prayer by many people in Bath and full of enthusiasm and hope. Like any Christian community, differences in personality and preference are beginning to come to the surface and we are working hard to enable honest and healthy conversation and to work out the right balance of study, community and everything else. We are all growing and learning together in this.
The students say that they love coming home to a house where they feel safe and valued and that they want to work harder to share what they have with others, inviting more friends round and being more open about the alternative way of life they have chosen for this year.
An amazing confirming moment was being given a large carved cross from a community that I was a part of myself in my early 20s and that now sits in Chapel House. As a young adult, Christian community hugely expanded my vision for what it might be mean to move into maturity following Jesus and expanded my heart in love for those who are different. This is my prayer for these students, too."
Not of all us can live in an environment like the Chapel House. However, we can all respond in how we value community. Perhaps that looks like opening up your home every week for a meal with your neighbours. Perhaps it looks like offering to open the Bible with an international student in your course cohort. Let’s give those around us the opportunity to be seen, heard and understood.
Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”