1. On Community: the Body of Christ

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, enslaved or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smelling be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each of them, as God chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be the weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, an individually members of it.

1st Corinthians 12:12-27
The new testament and psalms: An inclusive version – Oxford University Press.

2. On Community: Alan Jones

Our risk lies in choosing each other over and over again in the face of failure and disappointment. This is what being in love means. The Church is a dangerous place because it calls out the best in us – the desire to do right and to be good (not in a goody-goody way but in the deep sense of being true to who we are in God.) It is dangerous because we forget that the adventure originates with God and that it is beautiful. When we forget that our longing for the good and the true is grounded in the beautiful, the spiritual life degenerates into moralism and perfectionism. A cruel idealism overtakes us. Resentments are mobilized, and we become harsh in our judgements. Living in the Spirit is a matter of choice not to live from our resentments and disappointments but from our new life in communion.

What would a community open to the Spirit look like? One way the Spirit works on us to build community is through repentance (saying sorry) and compunction (having the heart punctured, being cut to the quick). They provide protocols against abuse and manipulation. The capacity to feel sorry for what we have done and the grace to admit it give public debate the lucidity it needs to go forward. So one way to move ahead is to understand that community is not an end in itself but a by-product of a vision of what human beings are that stretches us beyond our limits and continually introduces us to new possibilities.

The work of the Spirit is to unsettle us through love by opening us to positive deviance. We don’t build community by building community. We build it by having our eye on something else. What is that something? Christians see it in God’s great risk of communion, manifested in the Eucharistic table, from which no one is excluded.

(Jones, A. 2005. Reimagining Christianity, pp. 188-89).

3. On Community: Harvey Cox

[Cox here is reflecting on his involvement with a congregation in the New England area of the USA.]

And I need guides, - kalyanamitras – both living and dead – to whom I can apprentice myself. In my case the sangha is a struggling little church in my neighborhood, a place where I must contend with younger and older people some of whose views I appreciate and other of whose ideas I find intolerable. The music is often stirring, sometimes off key. The preaching is uneven. There is never enough money for the oil, despite numerous potluck suppers. How often I have been tempted to jettison this all-too-human little freckle on the Body of Christ and stay home on Sunday with better music (on the hi-fi) and better theology (from the bookshelf.) But I do not. A voice within me keeps reminding me that I need these fallible human confreres, whose petty complaints never quite overshadow the love and concern underneath. This precarious little local church may not be the ideal Christian sangha for our time, though it has done more to become one than many other parishes have. Still, it exists. It is where Word becomes flesh, and it offers something of what a sangha should. I do not believe any modern Christian, whether a returnee from the East or not, can survive without some such grounding in a local congregation. Although this may require vast patience and tenacity, I see no other way it can be done. “One Christian,” as Peguy said, “is no Christian.”

Cox, H. (1977). Turning east: The promise and peril of the new orientalism. New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 173-74.


4. On Community: John O’Donohue

There is a providence which brought us here and gave us to each other at this time. In and through us, a greater tapestry of creativity is being woven. It is difficult for us to envisage this. We live such separate and often quite removed lives. Yet behind all the seeming separation, a deeper unity anchors everything. This is one of the powerful intimations of the great religious traditions. The ideal of community is not forcing together of separate individuals into the spurious unity of community. The great traditions tell us that community already exists. When we come together in compassion and generosity, this hidden belonging begins to come alive between us. Consequently, a community which is driven by power, or too great a flurry of activity and talk, will never achieve much more than superficial belonging. The attempt to force community usually drives the more creative and independent people away. We do not build community as if it were some external and objective structure. We allow community to emerge. In order for community to emerge, we need time, vision and a certain rhythm of silence with each other. At its heart, it is impossible to grasp what makes community. We often hear the phrase 'community spirit' and that recognizes that community is not so much an invention or construction of its members but a gift that emerges between them and embraces them. We do not make community. We are born into community. We enter as new participants into a drama that is already on.

O'Donohue, J. (1998). Eternal echoes: Exploring our hunger to belong. London: Bantam Books, pp. 365-66.