I dearly miss the sort of fellowship that we had regularly before Covid-19 assaulted our shores. I miss the handshakes, hugs, and arms around the shoulder. I miss the gatherings that we would have, planned or impromptu, and the unexpected, intimate conversations with people who I would have otherwise not encountered. I miss seeing groups of people gather around for a common cause, thereby finding one more item that they shared with one another, one more thing that would strengthen the bonds of community. I miss the personal interactions where the focus was entirely on sharing and supporting one another without one thought about how we might be putting each other at risk simply by sharing life with one another.
I miss these things because I personally enjoy them. But I also miss these things because I have seen how a community is enhanced when these sorts of interactions are commonplace. It is difficult to care deeply about one another without getting to know each other better, taking the time to find out about personal passions and concerns, vulnerabilities and strengths. When we know these things about each other personally, we become better friends. When we know these things about each other collectively, we become a better community. If someone is in need, not only do we become aware of the need, but we know who might be best positioned to help out. Time, treasure and talent are put to work to the benefit of each other, with people being on the receiving end one day and on the giving end on another day. And when something significant impacts the entire community, everyone already knows how to pull together in a unified response.
Building a community doesn’t simply happen, and establishing relationships takes time. Deeply personal levels of information about each other is rarely revealed with casual conversation, and therefore takes multiple interactions where trust is built up to the point where the more intimate details about one’s life can safely be shared. It takes those interactions where people can talk face-to-face, being able to look into each other’s eyes and see true engagement and interest. It takes the sort of interactions that our fellowship together regularly promoted.
As a community, and as a nation, we need this type of fellowship and community building now more than ever before. We need to be able to share these moments with our neighbors, no matter who they may be, so that we can find the things that unify us instead of divide us. It isn’t enough to be united with the members of our community who think like us – we need to strengthen our bonds with our neighbors who have different perspectives so that we will remain a beautiful melting pot.
President Kennedy once proclaimed that America would strive to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Rebuilding and strengthening our community in the midst of a global pandemic and social distancing is not easy – it is incredibly hard. But it is also right. I urge you to find ways to do that which is hard and that which is right. I urge you to find ways to build and strengthen relationships with your neighbors, particularly those who don’t believe like you or look like you or think like you. The call from Christ was to love your neighbor as yourself, and Jesus never put a disclaimer on that statement that nullified it in the event of a pandemic. Covid-19 shall pass, and we will fellowship as a community again, but in the meantime, take whatever moments and opportunities that you have to draw together. The future of our community may depend upon it.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron