Monday, February 1, 2010

faith in community, again

(adapted from my church newsletter column)

In about the last year, I've experienced a renaissance in knitting. You can ask my family and friends: I've knitted scads of scarves, a couple of pairs of fingerless gloves, and my first ever pair of mittens! (currently: to knit, or not to knit a hat: that is the question.)

To be fair, I've known how to knit ever since I was in junior high. In seventh grade, my teacher patiently taught me the garter stitch, even though I was left-handed. In 10th grade, I stayed hom from school with a bad cold for several and taught myself to purl and cable stitch. I gave it up after a hat done in something called "popcorn stitch" looked very pretty, but had absolutely no stretch and wouldn't stay on my head. (I think I had a problem with gauge.)

On and off, I've tried and abandoned projects when the directions got too difficult for me. I taught myself to knit in the round but could complete no projects with it.

Then, suddenly, something changed. I stopped into a little knitting store one day and asked if they had any classes, particularly classes in how to make socks.

"Can you knit and purl?" they asked. "Come in and we'll help you."

It seems to me, lately, that our life of faith can be much the same. For years we can be going along, just knowing how to "knit and purl", so to speak, but not really knowing what to do with our faith, not really knowing what to make. For years, we can be going along, wanting to make something beautiful out of our lives, out of our community, and not really knowing how. Then, suddenly.....

So what makes the difference?

Community. Particularly, what makes a difference is a community of faith where we can dare to ask for help, and people who will say, "Come in and we'll help you."

I even begin to wonder if those classes we like to teach (particularly in larger congregations) aren't so helpful for the knowledge of the teacher who stands in front and "knows everything," but because they make connections between people who can then ask each other for help, as they grow in faith, as God makes something beautiful of their lives.

Two beautiful phrases in the vocabulary of faith: "Can you teach me?" "Come in and we'll help you."


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Hey, nice analogy. Yes, it is true that we do better when we lean on each other.

Perovskia said...

I like this post.

I think we yearn to connect with people, rather we recognize it or not. But I don't think people heed it as much as they should. If we talked to one another, if we *really* talked to one another, I wonder if the world wouldn't be so...'sterile' (I don't know why this word comes to mind).

I have a quote I recently put up on my blog, "The more people know, the more they forgive" - Confucious.

I think if we connected more and hated less, the world would be a better place.

Sorry for the ramble. I think I've sort of branched off.....

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I attended a funeral on Saturday for a woman I've known of for thirty years at church. I know one of her sons and her sister well. My husband knows her well in another context. I heard so many wonderful things about her at the funeral. I realized once again how little I knew that woman directly and how seldom I had ever spoken to her. I so often have this reaction when I go to a funeral. And every time I resolve to connect more with the people I worship with, but I fall back into my old habits, my somewhat introverted personality. And is the connections I've made with people that is the richest part of my life.

Jan said...

Yes, community. Today in the new Wisdom Class book, we read (about the brother of the Prodigal Son):
"The older brother's attitude--sulking outside and feeling sorry for himself--is one with which we can all identify. At the same time, we must come to understand that the attitude of the kingdom is not who worked the hardest, but rather, who is part of the family when the celebrations begin."

Oberst,"But I Tell You." Newberg, OR: Barkley Press, 2007. 8.

Perovskia said...

Hmm. This reminds me; when I spoke with the Bishop last night, he said, "What are we missing in community these days? Forgiveness". Perhaps another branch of a strong community?

Diane said...

Perovskia: you said so much in one word: "Forgiveness." I have been thinking about this so much lately..., even in my own congregation.

C. A. Peterson said...

Diane - I enjoyed reading this post. Community is huge... you are right.
I heard about your blog from your husband.

Perovskia said...

Hmm. Between reading the comment you left and reading your current post, I again am reminded of the talk I had with my Bishop. I was being quite hard on myself about a lot of things and he said...

"Have you ever thought about praying for help to forgive yourself?"

...the answer was obviously no. I have a problem asking for help, plain and simple. But not asking for help, I internalize everything, get frustrated and I'm sure it's projected 'out' somehow. Yes we need to learn to forgive each other, but we also need to forgive ourselves. Perhaps this could also play into a wholesome, balanced community (we each contribute after all).

Anyways, just a thought.