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Finding Faith: The church community is there

Whether it’s coming together in a family’s loss or after a frightening medical diagnosis, or collectively celebrating the birth of a grandchild or the 90th birthday of a parent, faith communities

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks
Contributed
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One of the greatest travesties of decreasing participation in faith communities, regardless of the religion, is the loss in community in a time when we sorely need more of it.

Churches are just one of the community institutions that formerly served to bind people together. But many others are facing the same lack of participation. And the loss of these historical bonds makes it so much easier to be so divisive, and also to be lonely.

We recently held a funeral at our church for a longtime member who wasn’t able to physically attend worship for some time because of a chronic illness. Regardless, when it came time to honor this saint, and to lift up her loved ones who mourned, our faith family turned out.

The pews were full of those who came to celebrate the saint’s life; our kitchen overflowed with food and busy workers; and family, friends and neighbors filled our basement for hours after the service to support the family.

The service demonstrated what it means to be the “Body of Christ,” as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:25-27: “25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

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That is, perhaps, one of the great misunderstandings about faith. So many strive to make faith a personal matter, when actually genuine faith draws us together for the sake of each other.

The Bible is littered with passages about being in community together. Much of the scripture in the Hebrew Bible was written to help the faithful understand how to live in community. And the writers of the New Testament spilled a lot of ink explaining how a genuine faith moved you to action for the betterment of others.

It’s true nowadays that many are seeking community in various other ways. But it seems that much of that activity is driven by the desire to stave off loneliness, versus the desire to create true community in which the collective body celebrates and mourns together, picks one another up and shares resources equitably with each other as faith communities are so good at.

Whether it’s coming together in a family’s loss or after a frightening medical diagnosis, or collectively celebrating the birth of a grandchild or the 90th birthday of a parent, faith communities offer a readily available and supportive extended family to endure life’s hurts and to magnify the joys.

As we watch the dwindling participation in houses of worship, one of the outcomes we should lament the most is that more and more people are turning inward to themselves, rather than outward to their neighbor during a time when we need more community, not less.

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Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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