National Gathering 2019 Breakouts #2

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Community and Isolation

Glenna Gillilan
Member of Bonhoeffer and Cochran communities, Dallas, TX and Leader of the Breakout session:

"Journeying With Community Members in the Midst of Isolation" Intentional Christian Community track

“I was excited to lead this session, since this is a topic that's very close to my heart. It went extremely well; people were willing to share their stories about times they felt isolated, which was one of the points of the session. Most of the time was spent sharing stories. I think we all learned from each other.”

Community Voices:
Jana Strukova, National Gathering participant

“As a practical theologian, I often ponder the starting point for doing theology, namely-doing theology as a lived practice of faith. The sessions that I have attended were in Intentional Community Track, and they were “Journey with Community Members in the Midst of Isolation” and “Table, Vineyards, and Shacks: Life Together in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” They both started by describing the socio-cultural morass of societies which had people navigating murky waters of relationships and legacies that were overwhelming. From living in the intentional community in Dallas, TX, USA, to experiencing different cultures of Cape Town in South Africa, people shared how they decided to orient themselves toward light and positive embrace of one another to escape the dark parts of their cultures’ history.

As hard and overwhelming as human relationships can be, they also represent fertile soil for planting and nurturing transformative habits and practices. But each requires going through and reflecting on the pain of brokenness and distortions of our humanity first. Transformative moments in the sessions—at which one could intuit the life-giving Spirit, came through personal sharing. The story—the experience—the lived hour of either pain or happiness became a theological declaration of faith. The life of faith did not start as a doctrine, rather it started as a human quality that was being continuously transformed through shared practices of faith in a community.

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The sessions in themselves modeled for me this point very well. The lived experience of forming a community, based on the pillars of Christ’s own fellowshipping with others, introduced theology as an activity of lived and shared experience. Is theology an experience before it is a doctrine? The sessions could quickly suggest, yes, but the life of faith is more than a shared experience or living by communal practices. It is the orientation to the Light, to Christ himself, that guided the common life of these intentional communities and their stories. Yes, the participants used culturally accepted practices to form the body of Christ, but this body was grounded in the vision set forth for us by Christ himself. The intentional community is a table in which the Word of God goes hand in hand with living and experiencing it. The shape of this table does not require a demarcated entry point: We each join the table of divine hospitality at the places and times of our lives when hunger for God and others is greater than ourselves.”