I was sitting at the kitchen table at Hans and Charlotte's house many years ago. We were visiting, and Charlotte was probably trying to get me to accept a loaf of banana bread to take home.
Hans leaned in to tell me what was on his mind.
"I hate that contemporary worship service," he said. "Why do we have to do that one? It just doesn't seem like worship to me."
Every other month, on the first Sunday of the month, we had a communion service led by guitar and piano. It had sort of a 'folk music' flavor, and some of our young families really liked it.
I told him this. I reminded him that we only did this service a few times a year. I may have even named a couple of names of people he knew that liked that service. Their children enjoyed coming to church because of the songs that we sang on those Sundays.
He nodded gravely. He wasn't going to boycott or leave the church because of the contemporary service. He didn't even want me to do anything about it, really. He just wanted me to know.
So, how do you build community in a congregation? It is a commodity we all say we want more of, and that people yearn for. We all say we want more authentic community. We want a place to belong, and to belong to one another. It sounds so heady and deep and hard.
Sometimes, it is as simple and unromantic as this: putting up with someone else's songs, because you want them to be there, in worship with you.
Sometimes it is as simple as listening to each other's complaints, and then being able to say: You don't have to change anything. I just wanted to let you know how I feel. I just wanted to let you know what's important to me.
Community is rarely romantic. It's more often just putting up with each other, with our different songs and our stranger habits and prayers and table manners, because, for some reason, you believe it's better than sitting at the table by yourself.