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“Restoring Community”

I find myself asking “How could one of the biggest introverts in the world become so entangled in the idea and practice of ‘community’?” I always thought I would make a great hermit. Just give me some books and leave me in a cave to read and think, and I would be quite content.

My first foray into community was with our Up Town Church which describes itself (at its best) as “An honest accepting community of broken people…” It was in this community that I found: a home, in which to belong, a hot house, in which to grow, and a people to love and serve.

Lately I have been called to Community Chaplaincy with a ministry of helping people reintegrate or integrate into the wider community. I have found the idea of integration into the wider community difficult but have instead reached the conclusion that it is to only in a specific, rather than generic community, that we can be integrated. ‘Community’ then remains very much my theme.

Last September we launched a new Street Hope Community in Saint John. We gather often to hang out around God’s word and seek to grow in love and service. This has been a particularly messy and gratifying exercise. We are discovering that growth does not often come in straight lines but it does come.

A while ago my friend Kris and I were chatting and he was sharing his experiences with ‘Restorative Justice’. I was fascinated to hear about what had been an academic concept for me but was a practical reality for him, from both sides of the issue (victim and victimizer). Out of that discussion and several subsequent ones came the idea that we should do some work on this topic. As is usual with me, I quickly became quite passionate on the subject and though we did not yet know what “working on the topic’ looked like, I launched out. I spoke at Stone Church on Sunday inviting folks to get on board (on what I was not sure). Yesterday we visited an eclectic group of Christians who are interested in promoting peace and want to do practical things toward that end. We shared our passion and through that conversation and our debriefs afterwards it became clearer that we wanted to foster was not a committee or agency but a community. My working title for this is “Restoring Community” like many of my ideas this is a double entendre. We would like to gather together with people who want to form a community where we can be restored and reconciled and we want to foster a community that is an actively restoring community.

Scripture tells us we have been given a ministry of reconciliation. If the Church (God’s people) do not exercise this ministry then who will? The justice system can only punish. Our community is reeling from the effects of victimization and there is no one else to tend the wounds. We believe that it will take a Restoring Community to meet this challenge.

Jesus prescribed a methodology we hope to adopt “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.” We will begin at home with the plan of building and being a Restoring Community. Kris and I will do some work on this over the summer and we will start the formative work in the fall. Please join us in praying for this effort and stay tuned I expect you will hear more in the near future!

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