Over 10 days recently, I got a glimpse of the blessing of true Christian community. I had been in a car accident in Florida that impaired my ability to drive for a few days, and for more days than that limited my ability to use stairs.
One couple from church offered to drive six hours to Florida to drive me and my car back to Bluffton. Another couple not only generously offered a room in their home, but also made me feel like part of the family while I called their house my home (and their adorable golden retriever my pet) for more days than I intended.
I also received an overflowing number of prayers, offers to run errands, and was overjoyed by the loving community Christ called me to serve.
Although Christian community is particularly uplifted when something goes wrong, its purpose extends far beyond that to include all aspects of one’s life.
As a millennial who loves Jesus and church, I’m not in the majority for my generation (and, statistically, generations to come) regarding church. Many claim themselves to be spiritual but not religious, or Christian without needing church.
Many say that they do not need to go to church to experience God. I can believe that. I experience God in many places outside of church and Christian community. I believe that God can be found in all things, which is something St. Ignatius of Loyola emphasized.
I believe that people can find God in nature, in art, and in doing their life’s passion. Yet, I also believe that community – the body of the church – is foundational to who God’s people are.
God has always called people into community to do life together. The church is often messy and dysfunctional, as it was in the New Testament, but from the beginning of time, God has been creating beauty from chaos (see Genesis 1) and even joining us in the chaos of the world with the birth of Jesus.
The church is the place where we worship, participate in the sacraments, serve our community, seek justice, share God’s grace, learn together, care for one another, ask questions, fail, confess and try again.
Church is not often easy, but it is the bringing together of people of all races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, poor and rich, neglected and oppressed, those who think they’re outsiders and those who think they’re in.
Church is a bunch of misfits who try to be like Jesus, fail, and try again. Church is where we find Christian community that prays for one another, goes out of their way to care for one another, and offers hospitality a hundredfold.
Church at its best looks like Jesus, and even at its messiest is without a doubt where Jesus can be found.
As I write this column, I’m sitting on my borrowed bed and petting my borrowed dog. Yet, the sense of home I feel is not borrowed; it’s a gift with no expiration date.
Yes, I find God in nature and art, but it is here, in the community of the church where I find meaning, hope and Jesus – for which I give immense thanks.
Stephanie Dion is an associate pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. LowcountryPres.org