recently i wrote about living in community–reflecting on the lessons of community and communal living that i have been learning in the past three*1* years. this week i have begun the arduous (and also gratifying/affirming) process of responding to the questions from the united methodist book of discipline (umc bod) one answers in their (hopefully) prayerful journey towards commissioning and then ordination as ministers in the umc, and in this process have found myself rereading the plethora of notes i typed in my two methodism courses while in divinity school.
this postulant theologian has no qualms in admitting that i am greatly enjoying this journey back through these notes. the pace of my heart quickens with delight and excitement when i ponder the call in feel from god to seek this gift or ordination–the gift of standing with a community of believers and walking with them towards holiness and a more full understanding of who each of us are–in our personal gifts and talents–and who we are together.
which brings me to my connecting point of bringing up the post regarding living in community: in reading my PAR160 notes searching for wisdom and rekindling my knowledge of umc polity i came across two quotes that kept taking me back to that community blog post.
the first is from the preface to “hymns and sacred poems” (1739) and the remainder of the quote below is from rev. dr. randy maddox expounding upon the depth of meaning:
“no holiness but social holiness” you can’t have growth unless you have community. you need the class meeting. you need a small group and to be a part of society. we need this living and conversing with other people if we are to grow in dispositions and meekness. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness (Hymns and Sacred Poems , Preface, §§4–5).
and the second is from john wesley’s sermon 24: “sermon on the mount, iv” I.1-4
Christianity is essentially a social religion … to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it. … I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without society—without living and conversing with other [people]. … That the religion described by our Lord cannot subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other [people], is manifest from hence, that several of the most essential branches thereof can have no place if we have no intercourse with the world. There is no disposition, for instance, which is more essential to Christianity than meekness. … (Sermon 24, “Sermon on the Mount, IV,” I.1–4).
i copy and pasted these quotes into my the document that i’m working on and then directly onto sticky notes on my computer screen–readily available for instant consumption when i feel i need a reminder as to why community is so very important. i digress on that point for now, as it was not why i started this particular post.
what these quotes have made me realize (or made me feel) is that while i may not be very good at quoting off the top of my head, i have seemingly been listening to the tradition and the church that i so wholeheartedly love. (do take this to mean either the umc or the Church as a whole. both are true. scripture and holy texts, holy people/saints/mystics/poets and friends are also lumped into my definitions of tradition and church at the moment.) i am deeply steeped in the belief that community is essential for Truth and Life.
this saturation is so deep that a lot of times i think that i don’t even comprehend the depth or the effects on my life. my body. my way of being.
i never would have been able to quote these statements to you directly, and i wouldn’t have necessarily been able to point to them as part of the process of becoming who i have become (and continue to become, too)–but it was in reading them again that i realized how shaped i have been by them. when rereading these and other quotes in my notes i was transported back to the classroom and to the
conversations that my classmates and friends had regarding these subjects.
another example is the poetry of shel silverstein. just now, housemate and i are sitting in the living room and she’s playing shel reading ‘invitation’ from “where the sidewalk ends” and i’m wondering how much these poems have shaped how i feel about life, how i feel about dreaming and hugging and being with people.
perhaps i am over sensitive to the didactic, or maybe the things that are read to us, that we read, hear, sing and see really do shape us in ways that are beyond us.
If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
*1*if not six…in my recent memory it is while at duke i began to “learn the language of community” and probably truly began to contemplate what “community” could mean on a deeper or a theological ground.