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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Belonging

As I was driving across town Tuesday morning I passed by my normal bunch of schools, elementary, high school, college and university. This is a very well-educated community I have. And I’m thinking of all those hundreds, thousands of people looking for the place they belong. Some are searching class lists posted on a bulletin board; some will have schedule in hand and will be approaching a room expecting to be welcomed, to find a seat, to locate someone already known.

“Is this where I belong?”

“Can I find my place here?”

“Will these people let me into this group?”

It’s a normal, human need – to find a place to belong.

We speak of belonging in church too. Some of the terms we use are “hospitality” and “community” and “relationship.” There was a time when we spoke of belief in the same context as we spoke of belonging. Phyllis Tickle (in her book "The Great Emergence") speaks of how the church has changed. Fifty years ago we found people who believed the same way and, after the prescribed time and rituals, we joined up and then we belonged. More commonly we were born into a congregation, grew up being taught the “correct” set of beliefs, conformed to the expected behaviours and at the appropriate age we joined; but really, we already belonged.

Not so in the twenty-first century says Tickle (and many others who observe the same patterns). People on the move long for a place to belong, to feel at home, to be accepted and loved. As they come into the community and observe how this group behaves, how its values are expressed, they may or may not find common beliefs. In fact one thing that communities do is talk together about those values. They may search out beliefs together. They may believe the same or they may not.

I spoke recently about expectations. We can’t expect, or assume, that everyone in our community will believe exactly the same. We won’t all have the same history or understanding. One of the things that will make our community feel safe is our willingness to accept people’s doubts and questions and struggle with belief. I’m much more likely to feel like I belong if you work with me as I struggle with my “unbelief”!

What do you think? Do you agree with Phyllis Tickle’s analysis? Which order of things resonates best for you: Believe, Behave, Belong? or Belong, Behave, Believe?

Posted by Marion

2 comments:

  1. In my case the belief definitely came first. Then I was so happy to belong Still happy to belong although the beliefs (the church's and mine) have changed.

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  2. then I'm guessing you would be of the "earlier" generation Tickle refers to. I hear many young folks speaking of belonging to a community; some of them with very little idea of some of those beliefs of which you speak.

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