Getting Specific, Local, Particular – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for Free this Week on Kindle!

by Mark Votava

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Endorsed by Shane Claiborne who says, “Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved.  We are made in the image of a communal God.  But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing.  And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline… without that our muscles atrophy.  Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there.  Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly.  It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”

  •  A radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place

To even start the process of shared life together in everyday life there needs to be a radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place.  The body of Christ needs to see itself as a fabric of relationships living, working, and playing within the proximity of a local context.  In other words, we have to practice inhabiting a neighborhood and committing to that place as the body of Christ together.

  •  The mediums we have created

Reimagining the local body of Christ this way breaks open the paradigm of the regional commuter church that is disconnected in everyday life and then meets inside the four walls of a building we culturally call “church.”  This is the only paradigm most of us have ever known.  But is the body of Christ supposed to be confined to such a limiting imagination?  So many people have given up on the body of Christ simply because the mediums we have created communicate that Christianity has nothing to do with the realities of everyday life.

  •  We care about the things that affect our lives

Put bluntly, it is irrelevant.  Most of the time, we only care about the things that actually affect our individual lives.  These are the things we invest our lives in, because we feel it will give us life with the most pleasure, enjoyment and meaning.  That’s why the mediums we have created as “the expression of the body of Christ” do not seem relevant.

  •  Reorient around the themes of community or parish

They communicate vibes of boredom and unpleasantness.  I have struggled with these mediums myself and my faith has had a hard time surviving through a default that produces a lack of engagement in real life.  What I want to propose is that the body of Christ reorient around the themes of community and parish (that is, contextual to neighborhood and local culture).

  •  Many ideas and definitions of community today

There are many ideas and definitions of community today that spring from affinity groups, city associations and the conversations of the emerging and missional Church, but I like Wendell Berry’s definition: “If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must refer to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people.  It must refer to a placed people …”  Berry goes on to say, “It exists by proximity, by neighborhood; it knows face to face, and it trusts as it knows…”

  •  Proximity is crucial

Proximity is crucial to this definition of community.  Without it there is no community.  This has to be taken seriously and then practiced together if there is to be any real face-to-face interaction as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  •  Living into a healthy expression of the body of Christ

The neighborhood cannot be forgotten.  I believe that the neighborhood or parish is the holistic medium that we need if we are to live into a healthy expression of the body of Christ that does not do damage to its local context.

  •  Specific, local, particular ways

“Here is the mystery of the incarnation,” says Gerald W. Schlabach. “Union of human and divine means that faith always must express itself in specific, local, particular ways …”

How can we develop a communal imagination in everyday life together?