Crossing Over Into Community

Gather a bunch of women to think and talk about community for a day, and ka-boom, you get a community.

Photo by James Hladecek

Forty women from seven local churches met at Grace Lutheran Church in Port Townsend on Saturday, October 6 for a day “Together On the Path – Crossing Over Into Community.”
This photo shows a light moment during introductions.
(All photos in this post by James Hladecek. My thanks to James for letting me share his images of the day.)

One Saturday last month, the women of Grace Lutheran Church hosted a women’s day on the theme “Together on the Path – Crossing Over Into Community.” I had a ball being their speaker. We ate together, walked a labyrinth together, and shared stories about times when we were newcomers to a community. We reflected and prayed together.

Here are a few home truths that popped out on the day:

  • Communities are created on their edges.  The mission and work of a community might come from its core, but communities get made on their raggedy edges, when a newcomer’s uncertain question, “Do I belong here or not?” finds its answer.
  • Creating community is a risky business. Everybody is vulnerable on that ragged edge: newcomers to misunderstanding as well as rejection, and core members to misunderstanding as well as the changes that newcomers bring. Creating real community takes courage on all sides. And the willingness to try again when communication breaks down.
  • Newcomers become old-timers by doing meaningful work. We all long to be part of something larger than ourselves. Those communities that captured my heart are the ones that gave me the chance to help them make the world a better place.

After lunch, we broke into groups to share our stories of making community. Each group wrote a prayer that grew out of what they heard together.

The rest of this posting shares the prayers written and prayed on that day at Grace.

Re-reading these prayers now, so soon after our national elections, I can’t help but think that they speak on every scale, from the smallest neighborhood gathering to national parties and governing bodies. You are invited to pray with us, for our local communities, and for the world.

Thank you, God, for open doors, open hearts,
and openness to understanding others.
Give us the grace to welcome others
and embrace our roles as sisters in Christ.
Amen.

Heavenly Father Mother God, give us the compassion to recognize those who are “on the edge,” offer our help to others, find where help is needed, and seek internal harmony, empathy, and understanding. Remind us that risk and failure are part of community.

Photo by James Hladecek

We walked a double-spiral labyrinth together in Grace’s beautiful courtyard.
Thanks be to God for a glorious sunny day!

Dear Lord, Thank You for the community we have in you through Jesus.
Thank you for people who reach out in love, and thank you for loving me enough that I can reach out to others in your name.
Thank you for holding my hand as I am on the edge and pulling me back to center.
Amen.

Dear Lord, Help me to be more mindful of others who need to be welcomed, to be more aware of my surroundings.
Help me to be a good listener and to be a friend where needed.
Help me to be mindful of community and not an island to myself.
I ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen

Forgive us when we miss the chance to welcome someone into community.
Wipe the tears of those who feel excluded.

My sister Rose happened to be visiting from her home in Australia and assisted me through the day. Here she’s holding pictures of the labyrinth-building project at my home parish of St. Paul’s.

Bless those who have accepted us as we are or were.
Make us aware of those who need our community.
Forgive us when we miss the chance to welcome someone.

God’s support for all situations, good and bad.
Thank God for this huge community that we are today.
I would ask God to affirm our caring for one another
as members of this body.
In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.

Together on the path.

Dear Lord, bring together our disparate, beautifully complex selves. Embrace each of us with just the degree of nurturing, changes, and sweet joy that flows between each of us in the labyrinth on this fall day. Give praise and honor to those whose vision drew us together. Send us forth to continue sharing this experience.

Wherever we’ve been God has been with us and blessed us as we moved through our lives — oftentimes as an outsider moved into being an insider in community.
Praise the Lord.

Finally, here’s a scan of one of the prayers written that day. I scanned the paper because the prayer begins with script in a language I don’t recognize. I love this one, not only for the unique prayer in English, but also for the reminder that even when we don’t speak the same language, we are all in this together.

Amen.

With thanks and blessings on all our paths,

Margaret

P.S. If you can read the first line of the last prayer above, please let us know what it says in a comment below!

About Margaret D. McGee

Comments

  1. Brad Offutt says:

    Margaret, I realize that I am in many communities at once, and they aren’t all overlapping. My Greek friends, and friends in Greece, are not part of the PT Conversation Cafe community. Yet I’m in both and often on the ragged edges. But sometimes I just want to be safely in the center of some warm community. And more and more I realize that the Spirit of Life animates and populated them all.

    • Brad, I’ve also been more away lately of the different communities I’m in, and the ways the overlap or don’t overlap.
      For example, I meet with two different writer’s groups. One focuses on haiku only, and the other reads and critiques a great variety of writing–poetry, plays, fiction, nonfiction, even drafts of Margaret’s Benches! I’m the only person who is an active member of both groups. Nobody in either of those groups is a member of my church … though I do have writer friends who are also members at St. Paul’s. And then there’s the circles of family … of neighbors … of far-flung friends.
      And I agree, thinking about all those circles brings me back to the Spirit of Life we all share.

      • Brad Offutt says:

        On our recent RV trip to Arizona I was invited in to a new community by two women definitely on the ragged edge. They are a Lesbian couple from Las Vegas, and across the RV park were their two close friends, a gay couple also from Las Vegas. They are wonderful, warm people of faith who took a chance on me without knowing how I might react to their situation. They have suffered much, I learned, but also gained much in their communities. And there was God right in the middle, moving us all together. They are doing significant work, helping many troubled people, with support from a conservative Christian fellowship that accepted them as God made them, a miracle of community in itself. I am honored to be asked in to their circle.

  2. Megan Chociej says:

    Could that script you don’t recognize be shorthand? I’ve never studied it but that was my first thought.

    • By gum, Megan, I think you’re right! I don’t know shorthand either, but just looked up shorthand images online, and behold, some versions look a lot like that script! I bet those squiggles are notes for the prayer that follows.

      This solution to the mystery is less internationally romantic than I was imagining … but I like it anyway. Sends my imagination in new directions … in the long history of women’s skills and professions.

      Thanks for that leap.