By Rev. Jeanne Randall-Bodman
“Community is a basic need and hunger of the human heart. We are created for community, but often we do not experience it in the individualistic and competitive cultures that shape our lives. Community is a place of acceptance, intimacy and vulnerability, where we can bear fruit in solidarity with others and be the body of Christ for the sake of the world.” -- Henri Nouwen
I love this time of year – the beautiful colors and cool air. The holidays out there on the horizon and the promise of long cozy evenings in front of the fireplace just around the corner.
I also dread this this time of year. The rapid loss of light tempts me toward a type of melancholy and reclusiveness. Connecting even with the people and places I love most can feel effortful. This is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for the community of church and for the long habit of participation. The sense of connection, belonging and rootedness of church brings joy and meaning through a season when I absolutely could not find those on my own.
It seems I am not alone, and that for many this is not just a seasonal issue. Earlier this year Dr. Vivek Murthy, the United States Surgeon General, issued an “Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community” in response to what he has declared “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Murthy’s letter at the beginning of an 82-page document produced by the Public Health Service:
“People began to tell me they felt isolated, invisible, and insignificant. Even when they couldn’t put their finger on the word “lonely,” time and time again, people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, from every corner of the country, would tell me, “I have to shoulder all of life’s burdens by myself,” or “if I disappear tomorrow, no one will even notice.”
We are living, it seems, in a time when people are longing for connection and authentic community. When people need somewhere we are allowed to show up with our whole selves and find that we are seen, accepted, and valued. Dr. Murthy’s research has shown pretty convincingly that when humans don’t have that connection our lives are shorter and worse.
Churches and other faith communities offer some of the few places left in Western society where people gather across generational and economic lines and outside the demands of consumerism. The way of Jesus is one of intimate connection – an invitation to grow closer to God by growing closer to one another. The call to a life of worship, prayer, service and justice is a call to participate in God’s beloved community. This is good news the world needs to hear.
Grace and peace and the blessing of gentle, golden autumn days to you!