I am loving the Monday evening class I am taking this semester: Pastoral Care and Counseling. I’m only two classes in and I’m already learning tons. This last week we were talking about communities of care, people, friends, groups, in our lives that are there for us. There to support us when things go bad. There to support us in times of need and in times of crisis. There to help with what we need, when we need it. These are also often groups in which we can be authentic, be ourselves. Groups in which we feel comfortable; where we don’t have to wear a mask. We’ve all had or have these communities in our life. Sometimes they were short-lived, sometimes they span years or our entire lifetime.
When the prof asked us to break up into groups to discuss the communities of care in our lives, my brain went into overdrive trying to consider the options, consider the times in my life that I have had these communities. Do I have one now? Who would they be? What does it look like? What about in the past? What did that look like then?
And sadly, I actually found it a lot easier to think of all of the times when we went through things and didn’t have that community of support. My wife and I, before we got married, did the whole long distance relationship for just over 3 years. Sometimes it was really rough and I didn’t have many people around me for support. When our son was born, we didn’t have much of a community in place to provide much support. Transitioning away from our church last year but a lot of strain on existing communities of care in our life to the point that they lost a lot of their potency.
But then I started thinking about the communities of care that we have had, and one especially stands out in my mind.
Shortly after getting married my wife and I started to look for a new church, a church that was ours together. Not hers. Not mine. Ours. I can’t remember how long we looked, or even how many different churches we went to, but I remember our first couple of Sundays at Journey.
They met in the gymnasium of a local school, and we saw a sandwich sign on the side of the road one day and decided to go check it out. There were just over 100 people or so that met on a Sunday morning. They had a great little worship band (with an awesome worship pastor), a pastor whose sermons I enjoyed, they did communion every Sunday, and were overall a friendly group.
We got involved very quickly and were playing in the worship band and helping with setup almost weekly. We connected with the people there, got involved with a small group, and quickly made friends.
One aspect of our community of care there was the worship team. It helped that some of us were also in a small group together and the worship pastor was an awesome guy that we got along with quite well. It was nice having the weekly practices and then playing together on Sunday. It builds a relationship different from your average friendship. I guess it’s kind of what band friendships are like, you get to know about each other in different ways than your typical surface level relationship. I appreciated that. We connected with the other band members. We connected with the worship pastor. I learned a lot playing with them. I grew a lot too, both as an individual and as a bass player.
And then there was our small group. I loved our small group. I love the people that were in our small group. For us, that evening that we would get together, once a week, was easily the highlight of our week. Mama Bean and I were in our first year of marriage, each working two jobs, stressed, and rarely saw each other. But getting together with our friends was vitally important. And what great people they were, and diverse too.
I think telling people about the diversity of our group is my favorite part. :) The group consisted of the host couple, a couple that were our age, but with a baby and a toddler. Us, mid-twenties, newly married. A single lady a few years older than us who had gone to Bible college. A single mom with a toddler. Another couple about our age with a baby and a toddler. And a single guy a few years younger than us. And it wasn’t just on the surface that we were eclectic, but within as well. We all came from different backgrounds, different theologies, different thought processes.
Seriously, they were/are such a blessing to us. (I say us, because I know they were extremely important to Mama Bean as well) They
tolerated accepted my questioning. My theology that came from out in left field. My potty mouth. My questionable thought process. They were a group of people with whom I could be truly authentic. I never felt judged (at least, not in a negative way). I never felt unwelcome. I never felt unaccepted. Even when our theology really didn’t mesh, I never felt like my opinion wasn’t heard or wasn’t important.
They were exactly what we needed at that point in our lives.
Then we moved away, relationships began to fade. We still have Facebook, we still occasionally chat. We try and see them when we are in town, but even that has gotten harder. It’s not that I love them any less, but time and distance fade relationships. Life moves on. And that is okay. It does not diminish the extraordinary role they played in my life. I still miss them dearly. I wish we still got together on a weekly basis and had interesting discussions, fun discussions, deep discussions.
When it comes to communities of care, that church, those groups, those people, are what I think of.