Paulette, my wife at my side.
Mark on my left balances his son Merlin on his
knee as he feeds the boy. I lean
forward and peer down the table and can not
see the end round the corner. There are
fourteen children and six adults
present for lunch. Mark is a house painter by trade.
I make my portion very
small as the dishes make their rounds.
I have not sat at such a table
since I was a a small child visiting my Grandparents in the
early sixties in
Iowa. Deb is lovely in her new spring cape dress. The white mesh prayer caps
worn by all of the ladies identify this as a Mennonite household. We are
among the Peculiar People.
The road that brought us here began in a round
about way on September 11th 2001. The day freedom
began to die. Soon after
that event I began researching and what I found rends my heart to this day.
But that is another story and has already been addressed.
watershed event was the shooting at Nickel Mines Pennsylvania in October of 2006
that took six young lives.
Marian and Barbie Fisher demonstrated their
conviction of faith when they asked the shooter to "Shoot me
first" and let
the little ones go. Marian died and Barbie survived. The world was stunned by
exhibited as the community tended not only to it's own but to
the shooter's family also. The power of faith
and forgiveness. A pastor who
had been with the Roberts family - the gunman left behind a wife and three
told a Lancaster newspaper of being in the family's home when
there was a knock on the door. It was an Amish neighbor
coming on behalf of
the community. He put his arms around Roberts' father, and said "We will forgive
you." The pastor concluded: "God met us in that kitchen."
The most recent event is still as fresh as the graves in the tiny community of Marrowbone
Kentucky. Eight members of an Amish Mennonite family along with two close
friends and the truck driver perished in a horrific accident just
Easter. Along with the grief was a triumph of faith and community as well
wishers arrived by the busload from
all over the country and as far away as
Brazil. Were you aware that over three thousand five hundred people
attended this funeral? Most were Amish or Mennonite. Some were total
strangers. Many thousands more listened to the service
by phone. The circuits were literally overloaded!
Did you know that such large crowds are not the
exception but the rule at Amish/Mennonite events? If the headlights
shining through your windshield how many would attend your departure? I did not
like my answer to this question,
so here we are.
I am talking about intentional community in a faith based congregational format. I am talking about
something which is quite rare today. The plain people are a repository of
what used to be common in the population at large. We look at them with
nostalgia and longing. We look at them with horror at what has been lost in our
own lives. We look at them with hope for what could be once again.
If words like faith and congregation upset you, then perhaps you might
substitute words like love and tribe or cooperation and fellowship. The words
or motivation do not matter. The extended family created by true
community DOES matter. In such an environment there is nurturing and there is
accountability, sharing and responsibility.
Does your neighborhood or city have bars on it's windows? Can your child walk to the corner market and
return unmolested? Do you know an old person who died alone? Are your
daughters growing up too fast listening to the likes
of Britany whispering "I'm not too young?" Mark's fifteen year old Lynn was sweet and naieve with the
maturity of about an eight year old. Somehow I doubt Lynn is aware Lady Ga Ga
walks on the planet. A child who is still a kid. This would
Anna Esh, one of the victims of the accident in Kentucky was thirty
three years old. As part of her personal ministry she liked to visit widows.
Among her personal effects rescue workers found a to-do list. On this list was
"three widows to visit." Lives are brightened and history is
changed one heart at a time when compassion and accountability
are present. The fact is, the congregational or tribal model works and has served man kind
well since the dawn of time. It can work again and will work again. We've
just forgotten, enthralled by the false promises of modernity. Shake it
off. Wakey wakey, it is time to wake up. There is work to be done. That is part of my
personal ministry. To do what I can to nudge you gently awake.
How is community like a choir?
What kind of music is your community making?
Last edited by baggywrinkle on Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:27 pm; edited 2 times in total