Apr. 22, 2019.
Three weeks ago I had the opportunity to take part in the Gathering Summit, a virtual convening of community builders from around the world. The core of this convening was twofold: to ponder why people no longer engage traditional places of “meaning-making” and to share best practices around “innovative gathering strategies.” As you might suspect from an online conference that frequently referenced such phrases as “innovative gathering strategies,” there was a collective tendency for the cumbersome and heady. But what do you expect from a group of people who willingly gave up their weekend to discuss shifting social trends and age-old traditions of being together? After all, these participants ranged from academic researchers to grassroots organizers, from religious leaders to social entrepreneurs.
Yet beyond the headiness, several points stood out to me, a few of which I have learned from those involved or adjacent to The Community (the tentative name of the young adult collective I have been gifted to serve over the last several months). Two points in particular were clearly articulated back to me through Gathering Summit presenter Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.” Priya shared that if gatherings are to have meaning today, they must first address a specific need within a particular group. Second, Priya pointed out that if we are to acknowledge and address a need, we must intentionally slow down. This is the heart of effective community-building: slow down, discover the need, and then address the need. “Yes,” I proclaimed!
In her words, and subsequently in the words of all those with whom I have interacted in the young adult collective, community, the ties that bind can be just this simple and weightless. This idea conjures in my mind the passage in the Book of Matthew in which Jesus is quoted to have shared, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them (18:20).” Whether the name or need is to comfort the lonely, to explore the city, to create with the Spirit in mind, there we see the faint shimmers and sparkles of the Beloved Community thrive among us. When we gather intentionally, slowly, to know and be known by others, there we hear the soft melody of hearts in harmony with one another. Forming community can be really just that simple sometimes: slow down, discover a need and address it.
On this bright new day, I invite you to join with me in this prayer:
Spirit of Life, God Eternal
Let us be caretakers to the in-breaking of this present moment, in this holy place where heaven and earth meet
Enable each of us to be soft today when it would be all too easy to be rigid and hard
Let us be mindful of not just our own needs, let us be mindful of the needs of our siblings around us
And in so doing, may we tend to those needs with the soothing balm of meaningful connection and heartfelt attention.
Ase, So Be It and Amen.