Imagine a community that worked together to meet the needs of the people around them. Some knew how to earn more money than they needed to survive and gave away the remainder to the community’s projects. In fact, loads more money so that they could fund many different projects. So much that they gave away huge amounts of money and still lived very comfortably. Some in the community had enough money to enable them to follow the example of John Wesley and live on 10% of their income and give the rest away to make it possible for other members of the community to run helping hands projects.
Yes, maybe a dream but this is one interpretation of what the church should be doing. It saddens me to see how far away the church is from this picture. But read on there is more and believe it or not you don’t need to be part of a church to be working towards developing this dream community.
Everyone had a role within the community. Some were project managers running projects. Some worked in the projects serving individual people. Some were bookkeepers. Some were IT experts. Some did the admin. They did this so that they could run a range of projects that worked together to help people in need.
Someone could come into the café run by the community. They then met people who were support workers who hung around the café waiting to talk to people in need. The support workers acted as signposts to other projects run by the community. This might be the job club or the furniture restoration project that also helped to restore people.
Over time the support workers had identified more and more needs and had found ways of meeting those needs. Sometimes they directed people to projects run by others that they had listed on a database of trusted sources of help. Or it could be that they recognised the need to set up a new project so they pointed out the need to other members of the community so that someone could do something about it.
Everything worked together. Even the housebound had a role as some were intercessors and others worked at home on their computers providing support via Facebook or developing websites that served people in need. Without their support, everyone would find fulfilling their role so much harder. Everyone had a role to fulfill as there were as many ways to serve others as there were people.
Where did this community gather?
The strange thing about this community was that its core members did not all go to the same building on a Sunday. In fact, in the beginning, some did not see much point in that because their desire was to serve the community rather than take part in all that religious mumbo jumbo. One by one they had come together and realised that they could work together to serve the community.
Those that were involved in the church had some minor differences. Some broke bread together others said Mass, some attended Eucharist, some had communion services. Like any other group of brothers and sisters, they were not identical but loved each other and worked together towards the same aim of doing what made their Father happy. In this case, it was providing a support system to the people around them.
Although their focus was on serving others there was also time and space for them to focus on who God is and what He has done for them. There were many different ways they did this. Some focused on visual experiences but those who preferred to do this with their other senses or used other ways were not forgotten. They loved and accepted each other so much that there was considerable give and take about how they connected with God. There were always willing to help those who wanted to add a spiritual dimension to what they were doing. Yet they refused to get involved in spiritual mugging aka dragging people into the church to increase their own numbers
There are many groups in local communities who do a lot to serve the people around them but there are few if any that have managed to reach this level of cooperation. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg as behind the scenes is a training centre. This is where the people who have come in struggling are helped to become the people who help the next generation of people in need who approach the community for help.
This community knows that there are those who need to start again sometimes almost from nothing. They rally around anyone who has been newly discharged from hospital or even prison and is starting again from virtually nothing. Others need to make a fresh start after divorce or domestic violence or becoming disabled or any number of difficult personal circumstances.
As people work on creating a new life for themselves they are helped to learn to read if necessary. Any other gaps in their education are filled as well. They are supported as they learn to manage money better and find new ways of earning money. Their home goes from just orange box furniture to one full of comfortable items that are not necessarily new but that build their self-esteem. They have all they need and their home is a place where they want to live.
Life is easier because they have learned the practical skills that once made it harder for them to have a comfortable life such as doing the laundry, cooking for themselves or gardening. They even have the opportunity to experience a complete restoration so that the underlying issues that have caused them problems are resolved.
It was not just individuals that were healed it was every aspect of the community. The fact that everyone worked together fostered such a good community spirit that it had an impact on anyone who visited the community.
They wanted to go to the local shops rather than to the next town as they wanted to support the local business owners who were part of their community. They worked together and trusted each other so it was more like supporting friends.
Slowly, bit by bit the community had healed. It was a very friendly place. Those who were in need had their needs met and many were left feeling fulfilled but not overburdened because they supported others.
Making it work
There were some who learned and shared biblical principles. They did not put people in straight jackets and force them to do this because the Bible says so. However, they promoted the ideas seen in this book of ancient wisdom because they knew that they worked. Experience had shown them the best ways of helping people, which was not always what people expected. They gave and God multiplied. God then gave again and it was multiplied again.
One of the principles they used from ancient wisdom was the idea of starting small with the resources that they had. They knew that they were given resources to use and if they used them wisely those resources would be multiplied and they would be able to move on to the next stage in their journey. (Well that is the basic thrust of the parable of the talents.) They also knew that they started small developed their skills and experience and then moved onto the next step of a project (Rather like the disciples were told to start in Jerusalem then move to Samaria before going to the whole world.)
This surprised some people because they had recognised the importance of many of these principles on their own journey. They did not have a clue that they had stumbled upon ideas that were also seen in a religious book they were not interested in reading.
The people of faith worked with those who were not people of faith simply because they had so many things that they had in common. They all wanted to see the community grow and flourish in various ways.
What a dream!