Article by Father Sam Vondi
“Genuine communities of a sort frequently develop in response to crisis.”1 Sometimes when the crisis is over then the community also dies, but if the crisis persists the community continues to exist. This is the case with the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA), Overeaters Anonymous (0A), etc.
To have a community there should be a genuine need that the individual members cannot or can no longer manage to fulfill alone, hence the need of having other individuals in need of the same need to put heads together to be achievers or to help one another. This group of (vulnerable) individuals in need but unable to fulfill them individually can form a community where all will be free to share his or her needs. The word need should be understood in the broad sense to accommodate all the desires for well being and wholeness. No one has it all and no man is an island. In a community of gifted but limited individuals the give and take approach or attitude is correct or appropriate. It has to be a community where one can really be open and be oneself without fear so as to get the necessary help from the community. It has to be a place where every member is accepted as s/he is. No need of being judgmental of one another.
A community can come into existence either by design or by accident.
- Scott Peck in his book entitled, The Different Drum: Community making and peace… says there are four stages through which a community passes, namely; Pseudocommunity, Chaos, Emptiness and finally Community.
- Looks good externally but is internally lifeless.
- Is characterized with pretense, conflict avoiding, unexpressed ill-feelings and conformism.
- Problems are not solved but are shelved or swept under the carpet.
- The relationships between members are not quite genuine.
- Members are afraid to expose their brokenness because there is no trust among members.
- Members are very defensive and avoid sharing personal issues in depth. General non-personal statements are usually used.
- There is a lot of back-biting among members of the group.
- Absentism from group meetings and a decline in membership.
- Unexpressed dissatisfactions or grievances cause ‘bottling-up’ or losing members.
- Leadership of communities in this stage need to be wise to read the situation and take action before members do so. Thus a leader has to see more and far well before those s/he leads do so.
- May begin with the members expressing their dissatisfaction or grievances in all sorts of ways, good or bad, constructive or destructively, actively or passively. This is done by members who choose to be real and do away with pretense.
- Some members will feel very uneasy with the emerging openness where some members may call a spade a spade.
- It may be characterized with fighting and struggle. If well meant this is a necessary evil but should be taken as a means and not an end in itself.
- Uncharitable language may be used since emotions may be high.
- There will be counter actions as some members will try to resist the changes.
- No more shelving or conflict- avoiding for some members may want to address all issues and nothing is left to chance and no stone is left unturned so as to give real life to the group.
- Current leadership is challenged or questioned and sometimes replaced.
- There will be members who are selfish or power hungry who may take advantage of the chaos to advance their personal motives or interests.
- The community or group runs the risk of extinction.
- Well meant challenges should be accepted for the sake of the life and relevance of the group.
- Members may point fingers at one another.
Biblical texts: Mt.5:43-48, 7:15-20, 10:16-25, 10:34-36, 12:22-32, 18:1-5, 20:20-28, 21:12-17& Jn.13:1ff
- Is characterized with sacrificing and giving up or letting go of whatever is contrary to the life of the community or group.
- Letting go of the false unrealistic or selfish expectations and pre-conceptions.
- Letting go of the prejudices which are wrong or biased and may be unfounded judgments made against group members.
- Giving up one’s ideologies, theologies and solutions. There can be as many of each of these as there are members and everyone may consider one’s own as the best.
- Emptying on self of the desire to convert, heal, fix or solve. Correct diagnosis precedes correct prescription. There may be need to heal the healer first, to convert the converter first…
- Giving up the need to control. Leadership may need to help so that the desired goals are achieved but not at any cost. No to authoritarianism. The good end does not justify the bad means.
- There will be tolerance among the members and differences, limits, inadequacies are accepted. In a sense there is life emerging from death. As members sacrifice what is of the self the group has more life
- There is unity in diversity as opposed to unity in conformity found in stage one.
Biblical texts: Mt.10:37-39; 19:16-26, 27-30; Jn.5:1-17, esp vs13
- Community/group members live for each other and with each other.
- Realistic and genuine as opposed to pretense of stage one.
- Conflict resolution is employed correctly – win-win solution.
- Checks and balances are in place to keep the life of the community/group.
- There may be challenges and struggles but these are addressed responsibly as means not ends in themselves.
Biblical texts: Mt.10:40-42; 12:33-37; 12:46-50; 25:31-46; Jn.13:31-35
Case study of the early Christian Community in the book of the Acts of the Apostles
The small group of Christians as a pseudo community – Acts 1:12-3:26
Conflict in the early Christian community – Acts 4:1-5:11
Emptiness – Acts 5:12-9:31
Community – remaining part of the book of the Acts of the Apostles
- Acts 2:14ff – conversion of 3000
- Acts 2:43-47 – the life of the early Christian community
- Acts 5:1ff – Ananias and Saffirah
- Acts 5:33-39 – Gamaliel’ speech
- Acts 6:1ff – chaos and segregation among the Christian members and the election of deacons
- Acts8: 9ff – Simon the magician
- Acts 9:1ff – the conversion of Saul/Paul.