I have been blessed with plenty of fellowships on last weekend. And each meeting had its own way to teach something for me, and perhaps for all of us as well. At least I hope I could give us some foods to digest, as each had done for me.
It started with a gathering with my high-school batch friends to celebrate my teacher’s birthday. She came here for medical consultation. It’s been a long time since we met last time. To use an Anglican term (since I have just written about the Anglican church), our teacher was the ‘instrument of unity.’ Or, to use a patristic (and Calvin’s) term, our teacher was the ‘bond of unity’ (used originally to denote the Holy Spirit). Our commonality, aside from being from the same batch, was the teacher. Commonality for community. That’s the word. Community is perhaps a basic human need and the good news is the only commonality that counts is neither race nor gender nor social class nor high-school background but being in Christ.
Which is perhaps illustrated in the second gathering (I hope I am fair enough). This time the bond of unity was Peter. Peter invited some of us for his birthday celebration (seriously, there were so many birthdays recently). And it was a pretty interesting celebration. He put name cards on each seat to force us to mingle with each other, since naturally we would just group with the ones we were most familiar with. And it was quite a success. I believe we got to know each other better than if we were not forced to do so. And our background was pretty diverse. As Peter himself said, he had known some for years and even some for just less than an hour. Ko Tjeli brought two PRC students whom Peter had not known before. It reminded you of one parable of the Kingdom of God, where the King invited the originally uninvited guests to the great banquet that he held. Of course, the parable means that the Gentiles are now included in the people of God and not only the Jewish people (which, ironically, could be cut out since they didn’t want to come to the banquet). On the other hand, I’ve rarely seen this parable to be actualized in our festivals, since usually we only invite those whom we know. Saturday afternoon was an exception that proved the rule.
Sadly I could not stay for the whole time for both events since I needed to catch up with yet another one. The last one on Saturday was the young adults fellowship at church. Last Saturday it was conducted jointly with the senior family group. They are, almost literally, the elders of our church. And I believe it was really edifying for those who attended the meeting. There is a reason why the leaders in Israel (in the OT) and in church (in the NT) are the elders, literally those who are advanced in their age. You just can’t substitute age with information. Their wisdom was reflected throughout our discussion about the relationship between parents and young adults, the topic for the day. I think I might have understood passages in 1 Timothy and Titus better now. Not from lexical study, but from real life, fleshy, embodied examples (for the bibliophiles, I’m not downplaying the importance of such studies).
On Sunday, I had a church camp meeting after the second service. Working in church context is a pretty new experience with me, since I has been shaped in the student ministry for the greater part of my Christian life. And perhaps it requires more effort than the amount needed in the student ministry, since in the latter we are facing those who are similar with us. The local church is more heterogeneous and resists attempts to reduce it to a mere social club. The student ministry might offer us a deeper spirituality, but it is not complete. We are not students or alumnis who are sent to make an impact in the church, but members of local church who are focusing our energy in student ministry (I deliberately exaggerate the dichotomy between the two for a rhetorical purpose). Primarily our identity lies with our local church and not with the student ministry. And I’m saying this as an ardent proponent of student ministry. I’m not saying that our local church gives us a complete package of spirituality. Church schisms throughout the centuries pretty much had ruled that out. But I still believe it gives you a healthier and more sustainable Christian life. And perhaps in this matter I differ from one of my dear friends.
Finally, the parades of fellowships ended with Jetan’s birthday (yet another birthday) celebration at his house. Jetan’s mom came here and prepared the food for us. And I just realized that I have known him for ten years now. Almost all who came were his church friends, so I gained yet another perspective for the life of a community. In this case, as a minority. Moreover, I was not familiar with the community vocabularies. I believe every community has its jargons. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Definitely the particularity gives a sense of identity and belonging for the community members. And, on the other hand, a sense of strangeness for the outsiders. And this strangeness could invoke curiosity for the outsider. He will try to listen and pay attention and then perhaps will decide whether he will join the community. Although, on the other hand again, he could also refuse and reject. The question then is whether our vocabularies and jargons build up an inclusive or putting-off atmosphere to strangers. And, for us who are strangers, it would be wise if we did not reject a new community outright. We should learn to be patient and appreciative of it.
By now perhaps you could have seen how I was truly blessed with each one of these. Being communal is implicated by being human, as we image the communal God himself.