The Nugget Newspaper - News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Cultivating Community

 

Last updated 1/31/2023 at Noon



It might be said that I grew up in community. My parents divorced before my first birthday, and Dad and I went to live with my grandparents. My dad was the youngest of their 11 children, and we all lived together in a big three-story house. Aunts and uncles and cousins lived on the first floor. Dad and I and my grandparents and an uncle lived on the second floor. On the third floor were more aunts, uncle, and cousins.

It seemed like the original big fat Greek family. While I was an only child, I was never alone.

The joy of family and relational flourishing was a great environment for growth. It seemed right. There was no time for alienation or loneliness. Everyone watched out for you. It was community at its finest.

As a pastor at Sisters Community Church, I am grateful that a part of our purpose is to cultivate community. A church doesn’t exist without community. As believers we understand we are made “in the image of God” and “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 1:27, 2:18).

The recognition of unity with diversity is at the heart of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit — each are uniquely different but bonded together as One. Being created in the image of God, we are irreducibly relational. We’re born with a need to unite with others. This is the good news, and where we find meaning. This is unity in the midst of diversity.

However, we live in a culture of rugged individualism, where ultimate authority is given to the psychological self. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” My truth supersedes our truth. Our differences separate us, and we struggle to come together. Community is lost. Self reigns!

We look across our country and see alienation and loneliness. There seems to be no attempt to create understanding, cross the aisle, build trust. There is a loss of community. There is a loss of incentive to create a better world for all of us. But unless we unite — as community — we won’t be able to fix this.

As a church we celebrate the individual. We recognize everyone’s unique gifts, skills, and abilities. At the same time, we know we’re all part of a larger family, a community that gives each of us a greater purpose. We realize that our individuality is necessary to flourish within community. Like the human body, each separate part — whether hand, foot, ears, or eyes — is vital to good health and functionality.

In a world without community, isolation, fear, mistrust, and judgmentalism take over. Relationships suffer. Ancient philosophers believed community was essential for human flourishing. They understood the value of each person’s contribution created a better world. King Solomon said, “Two are better than one.”

According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated. This survey, taken before Covid pandemic shutdowns, was a warning that community was at risk and on the decline.

As our church plans for 2023, cultivating community is one of our top priorities. We want to be a solution to these statistics. That means asking ourselves: How do we use our facility to meet needs in our community? How do we continue to care for those who have lost loved ones? How do we help those in need of the necessities most take for granted?

We can’t do it alone. Joining together with the larger community, we can help Sisters become a place where people feel a part of something bigger. Together we can flourish and enjoy the fulfillment of helping and needing one another. If you need help, or want to help, check out our community care page at http://www.sisterschurch.com. We offer services like free firewood delivery, snow removal, yard work, moving help, meal delivery...and prayer. Our goal is to help and bless our town.

Our 2023 resolution continues to be: Connect with God, Care for People, Cultivate our Community.

 

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