London is an ever changing tapestry of over 11 million threads. Each thread is a journey. Daily, weekly, yearly. Then there are the 31 million tourists who make their one off journeys each year. All these threads, our journeys, weave together and produce this global city. I have heard the stories of some of these threads. My neighbour who heard the shout of her family as a teenager in Somalia ‘run!’ and the fleeing footsteps she started there led her all the way to our street here. Another neighbour who regularly weaves his journey back and forth from the Ukraine to London, London to the Ukraine and back. The German family from the park, just here for a year with work. The American family just setting up their Christmas tree in the window of the house who are here for a year or two. The diverse and eclectic friends from a community garden who tell me ‘it doesn’t matter what colour you are here, black, white, yellow, green! Everyone is welcome!’. And so the threads of our stories and journeys, our similarities and differences weave together in beauty, difficulty, tension and grace.
Looking beneath the surface of the groups and communities that make up London we begin to discover the spirit of community that is a jewel in all these stories. Here are not passive and orderly groups of relationships that neatly serve our individual needs. No. Here is a richer fabric of relationships that is formed by communitas.
I want communitas, not community.
Communitas is different to community. Community is good but communitas is more alive. Community brings people together because of some common place or characteristic whereas, when a community embarks on a mission its’ chemistry begins to change. Communitas is what emerges, the group who are gathered around the mission. Communitas is the community on a quest, being formed by a journey, who are experiencing relationship that is refined by shared hardships, dangers, risks, joys. Have you ever been part of a group that has had a shared goal or mission and found that you have a deeper set of relationships as a result? This is communitas.
The Christmas story is beautifully woven with communitas which is then crowned and coloured by Jesus. It is a series of adventure-threads all pulled to the destination where God becomes a man. Mary and Joseph, Shepherds, Magi all end up on God-quests which lead them to the Saviour of the World. What they find is a child who is the new place where the heavens meet the earth. They find that the God-communitas of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has embarked on his own adventure to save the universe. And so these quests across the face of the earth by humans converge in Jesus Christ with the cosmic quest of the 3-in-1 God.
So, the true calling on all communities who are becoming communitas is this - come, find and follow the Son of God. Then as we discover him we also discover that through him the brokenness on earth might be as the wholeness of heaven.
So what mission are you on? And who are you going with? Are you willing to take risks and put your own life on the line of this adventure? Are you willing to risk not just possessions and worldly securities but also your relationships? You will have to learn to deal with conflict, to be transformed by truth, to be made fit by hope and humbled by faith. You will have to learn how to deal with plenty and poverty. But you may just experience life that is more alive. You might even find what you are secretly looking for with your whole being.
And the crazy twist is this, the man who is your destination is also your guide and wants to be a member of your communitas (if you will let him be).
Mark Bishop @revmarkbishop