Knowing and Being Known in Community

by Mark Votava

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Community has become one of the major themes of my life as I have been exploring this for over a decade where I live.  At first, it was very unfamiliar because I was taught to live individualistically not interdependently.  And this was a big paradigm shift I had to make in order to stay rooted in a particular place and share life together with others.

Now my life is about living relationally as I seek to know and be known by others.  God is revealed to me through the local community I live in.  God is revealed through the relational context I find myself in.  God is revealed to me through the place I walk on the earth.

  • Having the courage to live relationally

We must have the courage to live relationally and allow ourselves to be known by others.  Now of course we will never know each other completely, but as each year passes, if we are present, we can allow ourselves to be known more and more.  This is not a fast process; it takes years of sharing life together in a particular place.  But without relationship there is no shared life.

  •  In the midst of our relationships

Robert Mulholland Jr. in his book Invitation to a Journey stresses a relational spiritual formation in which he says, “Our relationships with others are not only the testing grounds of our spiritual life but also the places where our growth toward wholeness in Christ happens… But holistic spirituality, the process of being conformed to the image of Christ, takes place in the midst of our relationships with others, not apart from them.”

  • Being an expression of God’s goodness and love

We need others to manifest God’s goodness and love to us.  We also need to be an expression of God’s goodness and love to others.

  •  To live in communion

The wise monastic Thomas Merton explains, “Mere living alone does not isolate a man, mere living together does not bring men into communion.  The common life can either make one more of a person or less of a person, depending whether it is truly common life or merely life in the crowd.  To live in communion, in genuine dialogue with others is absolutely necessary if man is to remain human.  But to live in the midst of others, sharing nothing with them but the common noise and the general distraction, isolates a man in the worst way, separates him from reality.

  •  Relational ways of knowing and being known

Relational ways of knowing and being known are necessary to our humanity as the body of Christ in local everyday life context.  There is so much noise and distraction that keep us from becoming known and relationally whole.  How can we rediscover our humanity together in the place that we inhabit?  What will bring us into a “genuine dialogue” with one another to know and be known?

  • Community won’t work if it is not relational

Our very capacity to grow in wisdom is dependent upon our relational way of being.  Community won’t work very well if we do not understand that it is relational.

  • Everything is relational

Life is relational.  The body of Christ is relational.  The Scriptures are relational. The neighborhood is relational.  Collaborations and partnerships are relational. People are relational.  God is relational.  The sacred is relational.  The ordinary is relational.

  • All knowing is relational

In other words, everything in life is relational.  All knowing is relational.  That is important to understand!

  • Desire to come into deeper community with what we know

Parker J. Palmer writes, “Knowing of any sort is relational, animated by a desire to come into deeper community with what we know …”

Do you think community is relational or not?