Shaping Communities - Ways to Practice - Ideas

i>Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are
varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities,
but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

— I Corinthians 12:4-7

•   Host or organize a meal with about 10 people from your faith community, or from your neighborhood. Invite participants to tell stories about how they came to this place and to share two of their favorite memories of life in this community.

•   Get a map of your local town or city and mark the identifiable neighborhoods. What reputation does each neighborhood have? Who are leaders in each neighborhood?

•   See how many city council members you can name from memory. If you get stumped, obtain a list from city hall. What gifts do the various elected officials bring to the community?

•   Identify gifts brought to the community. Reflect on the people in your study group. Identify particular gifts they bring to the community. In what ways could you help draw out the gifts that are present and weave them into the life of the larger community? How does your faith community go about calling people to service?

•   Collect an offering of service gifts. During stewardship season, collect an offering of service gifts pledged for the coming year from the church community. People might offer to provide a meal in an emergency, give those who need help rides to the doctor, provide musical accompaniment for worship, read scripture for worship, do a special maintenance project, edit the community newsletter.

•   Describe a congregation that you think embodies "best practices" of shaping community. What characterizes its forms of leadership and its power structures? What types of people have leadership roles in governance? testimony? outreach? teaching? hosting table fellowship?

•   Support community leaders. In what special ways does your community support its leaders? Write a letter expressing appreciation to a leader you admire.

•   Within your faith community, identify ways to nurture these qualities that make for democratic governance and adaptive leadership:
-  A sense of divine power as the power for human flourishing
-  A basic equality that dignifies the varied gifts of all members
-  Forms of address that tend more toward "brother" and "sister" than titles
-  A sharing of resources with a view toward individual need
-  An effort to cross social boundaries for a more inclusive community
-  An uneasy relationship to every dominant order, every "Caesar"
-  A conviction that this community is a vanguard example for the wider world.

•   Reflect on specific occasions when your community gathers in a special way, and ask what each says about the source and purpose of your community: Eucharist/communion, baptism, confirmation/membership, remembrance of the saints, all the festivals of the liturgical year. Review material on these occasions in your worship book, if your church uses one.

•   Use these strategies for dealing constructively with communal change:
-   Set a time to listen to objections and clarify so that those who oppose know they were heard. Do not defend proposed change.
-   Use conciliatory speech and avoid polarizing or patronizing rhetoric.
-   Find an objective facilitator who can help people feel they are part of the change process and that it's not forced on them.
-   Respect dissent, and be willing for the proposed change to incorporate some of the ideas of those who oppose it.

•   Learn how the Rule of St. Benedict has shaped community over the centuries. When Benedict of Nursia wrote his Rule in 530 C.E., the Roman Empire, though materially prosperous, was in a state of decline. Benedictine monasteries -with their message of balance and moderation, stability, hospitality, and stewardship- were credited with the preservation of Western culture, and Benedict himself was named patron saint of Europe.

Read the Rule on The Order of Saint Benedict website

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