When I was in my early twenties I found myself in a transitional stage of life. A relationship with a girl I had dated since high school came to an end, which prompted me to move in with some old friends in to what I have playfully, and yet accurately, described to others as an Animal House type environment. My young heartache was comforted by acts of adolescent debauchery, filled with both moments I’ve come to cherish and others I most certainly would like to forget. However, in those years I was not only moving in an existential sense but also physically moving…A LOT.
In the matter of a few short years, I moved from house to apartment than from apartment to house and experienced all sorts of different roommates. I moved from one side of the state of North Carolina to the other. I attended a handful of different colleges and often felt I was on an “academic tour.” Moving. Moving . Moving. ALL THE TIME. Each time I moved I had to look around and ask myself a very serious question…
“Who’s gonna help me move my crap?” followed by, “How much pizza and beer will I need to bribe people?”
I thought about this recently when talking with a mentor turned colleague (kinda funny when those transitions happen). He was retelling a story about a friend of his which centered on a conversation they had concerning Sunday School. The friend, who is a bit older, described to my mentor/colleague his perception of Sunday School and why it had been so important to him in his spiritual development. As they talked it seemed to become evident that the two did not view Sunday School in the same way. My mentor/colleague’s understanding seemed to stem from Sunday School being more around spiritual education while his friend found Sunday School to be the catalyst for forming community (Disclaimer: That is what I personally took away from the retelling, not being there limits my knowledge of course). Yet, somewhere in that conversation the example of moving was used. The older gentleman referenced that “back in the day” when he needed something moved all he had to do was call someone from his Sunday School class to give him a hand. The conversation ended between the two with the question, “Are our Sunday schools still like that? Can I ask someone in there to help me move?”
Obviously this got me to thinking. I’m pretty big on the concept of community, having written an article back in May addressing the idea of “Neighbors.” In the article I spoke about folks who had found community in other places outside the Church, such as those who participate in Crossfit. Another group of people I’ve been exposed to over the last several years is the Bearding community. These are men and women (yes I said women, when they participate in competitions they are called Whiskerinas) who have formed authentic communities resulting in friendships that reach across state and even national borders. These beard clubs work with one another, which allow them to do some amazing things in the communities where they live (Check out Cape Beard Follicles of Freedom or the RVA Beard League to see what I’m talking about). Needless to say when the people from Crossfit or the “Beardos” need to move a couch they know who to call.
And here is where I need to make a confession/observation; Often, I see community practiced better outside the church than inside the church. Ouch.
Lauren and I have officially been in our house for over a year now. When we moved I enlisted the help of a couple of students from my previous church to give us a hand. They helped us load up the bigger pieces of furniture back at our old townhouse and made the job a lot easier, but when we got to Winston-Salem it was just the two of us who unloaded everything.
Why didn’t I think to ask those at the church who had just appointed me as their Student Minister for help, or even my fellow peers at Wake Divinity?
Honestly, the thought didn’t cross my mind…and that might be where the problem lies. Has church culture, including Sunday School, produced people like me where we don’t ask each other for things beyond a simple prayer request? Surely, the people in our churches are good for more than that?!?
This has led me to questions how I’m to approach that hour before worship on Sunday mornings (or any other small group gathering). In my own context, maybe I should stop worrying so much about institutional doctrine and start teaching people how to help each other move couches.