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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?"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Superficiality and Community

For years now I have read the news on-line vs a newspaper even though in the Toronto market many are free. What I enjoy about the on-line Globe or Star are the comments following the articles. Invariably there are contrary and divergent viewpoints that expand my understanding of issues. Some comments are reactive, some affirmative and some bring brilliant dialogue to the topic which becomes a catalyst for testing the validity of the points expressed. One such interactive dialogue I found so intriguing from the viewpoints posted on all sides (many more than 2 sides to the story) that I copied and pasted the entire 200+ comments onto a word document to enable me to be more informed about the Israeli / Palestine issue which is confusing for me.

There are countless blogs and unlimited dialogue forums on-line about meaningful and diverse subjects. For yourselves, within Facebook there are perhaps a dozen dialogue groups openly discussing any and all topics about our heritage, our theology, our practices, our validity. These forums for me provide insight to the breadth of viewpoints related to our Community of Christ body of people. These forums help me to understand my own faith better as I consider my response to questions posed or perspectives cited. It is not just about protecting my positions of faith. I learn, I grow, I research to verify claims, I am stretched with the new and am enriched. I also always am mindful of our heritage standard to learn by both study and (prayerful) faith.  I would encourage each one to expand your horizons of exposure to faith dialogue. It will also necessitate you knowing your own heritage beliefs with Community of Christ. To know the fundamentals of our faith read the booklet, "We Share" which encapsulates our current enduring principles of faith. If you do not have the booklet, just read it on-line here:

To give you a taste of thoughts out there about churches that are being discussed that hold back no punches try these following blurbs people have posted.

"when we are a part of the church, many of us assume that because we are surrounded by people our loneliness will be remedied. Not!  We wonder how genuine the friendships were there in the first place. We were lonely surrounded by people."

I understand the sense of isolation that seems pervasive in church culture. I have spent many hours this past year as a 66 year old trying to determine why this seems to be a characteristic of church community, even in the church that I have been a member of for 35 years and in which I have held leadership positions. When I recently went through a personal crisis, it was my longtime friends and neighbors outside the church community that rushed to inquire about my well being and support me. Interestingly enough, it was not my church "family." I haven't quite figured out the paradox of this situation, but I am working at it.

"going to church could give people the opportunity to mingle with diverse people that are quite different from themselves. In practice, though, many churches tend to attract congregations that tend to be somewhat "the same" and many church communities fear diversity and "the other". In a diverse world when certain communities fear diversity, these "sameness bubbles" will tend to get smaller and smaller. I think that if churches could change their inner psychology and embrace diversity, they could grow their numbers."

"I've never gone to a church where there was ethnic diversity. I have always gone to churches where there was economic diversity. Like you said, the ethnic diversity should have been there, and would have been a great way to get to know and relate to people of other cultural backgrounds. But it didn't work out that way, unfortunately."

"actually, I think the internet is one of the biggest reason for a fall in church numbers.
The internet does two important things:

(1) Community: as related to the post -- it allows community of like minded folks without having to give up 1/4 of your time off each week, drive across town or get dressed up only to have perfunctory nice talks with lots of fake smiles. Well, that is only how church is for some folks.
(2) Knowledge: evidence exposing the foibles of religion are now readily available.
While true that face to face community is important, I think it's important to emphasize a third option on why the Internet may have altered religious practice:
(3) freedom to explore ideas And no topic is considered off-limits. You can share and there will always be someone who can relate, chime in, etc. In the Church, there's too much concern about something being taboo, thus leading to artificial relationships. And our group is not perfect. People say things that offend others, but we're generally quick to make amends without sweeping it under the rug. That doesn't often happen in church. Quite the opposite: the offense is swept under the rug hoping to never be dealt with again. Nothing gets resolved. I'll take real and flawed any day over superficial parading as real and genuine.

Comments like the above challenge us to be relevant, to be real, to explore what needs to change. A full 75% of our total CEM membership is now peripheral to our attending ranks. That says something. Numbers speak volumes. In the sales profession, poor measurables determine the discontinuation of a product or the immediate and critical necessity to change it. Corporate survival is based upon listening, market research, competition, perceived customer benefits, and the cost to acquire that product in comparison to the alternatives. I say it that way as there is a cost to you to attend church in your measurably precious time, your personal inner investment for meaningful intersection with the Divine, courage to engage yourself in social relationships and actual $$ expenditures in gas, contributions etc. Knowing your customer and your customers needs in business creates product loyalty. Loyalty is fading. The comments above about churches are just a small slice of reality in people's thoughts who choose not to attend church.

We need "to be with" those in the periphery or those who are "alone" in our congregations to know them. "With" means personal time, $, courage, prayer and life investment in their lives. Many just fade away otherwise. We are superficial friends if we allow that to happen? Were they lonely in our midst because of superficiality. Is our community of joy, hope, love and peace a future image in our minds or a present reality in our midst. Are we community? These questions are for each of us to ask, to feel deeply within, to have tears over, to take us to our knees and pray for ourselves to change, as we are ultimately that product that needs changing.

I challenge myself and you to be honest, to know there is a cost, to know we need to change things in our lives such as praying intently, having an envisioned plan that compels us, increasing our capacity of time to nurture the reality of community where we are and becoming a catalyst by partnering with others to do the same. It is not easy. I open this blog site's stats and pray for everyone on this blog subscription list every day. May I, may the Spirit be a catalyst in yours and my life!!

submitted by Kerry

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