Circles of belonging
Well, hello there! I'm happy to run into you here on the pages of our hometown newspaper. Whether you are reading the paper that was delivered to your door, or standing in Sonoma Market reading the paper you bought outside, reading online or logging in from some other state or country, you are an important member of the Sonoma community - or you wouldn't take much interest in the people and the events followed every Tuesday and Friday in these pages.
Even as formats change from paper to screen, a small town newspaper still calls us together, all of us who live in Sonoma, and all in other locations whose hearts are in Sonoma.
It used to be so easy to feel connected. We lived where we were born, where our families had always lived (dearest loved ones and eccentric nuts alike). We worked the earth together in a common purpose and a shared sense of ownership. Moving to some other location was a response to famine or war, and involved great hardship and heartbreaking separation from family and friends, and from the landscapes that shaped our individual and collective souls.
Much of the Biblical narrative relates to human community - stories of how our particular community came to be, stories of exile, tales of conflict and harmony within and among communities, codes of conduct for individuals living in community, lamentation over the destruction of community, rejoicing in all that nourishes our common bond and seeking strength when members of the community turned against each other. The worst thing that could happen was to be cast out. Community was a matter of physical and spiritual survival.
Now, we talk, we text, we I-M, we Twitter and thanks to Facebook, I spent some time this weekend sharing with others around the country in support of my friend Rev. Andy whose coffeemaker conked out in Iraq.
But a true feeling of community feels farther out of reach than ever. By our later decades of life, we have shared life's journey with so many people, but loneliness and isolation are a major problem for many elderly people.
Faith communities reach out to offer online worship experiences, but often don't get to visit people in the hospital or those that are homebound.
People complain that in a small town, everybody knows everybody else's business, but I have heard more than one minister comment, "But I didn't even know she was in the hospital." His holiness, the Dalai Lama notices, "We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor."
In this age of more communications devices, but fewer true lifelong friends, we have to get creative about how we create and nourish community. What constitutes community for you in your life? Your workplace? Your walking group or exercise class? The other people at the dog park? Others who share a big challenge you are facing? Those in your specific spiritual community, or those who share your faith all over the world? People you share a hobby or interest with? Can you think of that difficult committee as sacred community? Do you feel in community with your ancestors, with loved ones who are no longer part of the human community on earth, but people in the community of your heart?
We can survive with very little human contact these days. But our spiritual nourishment is more dependent than ever on the circles of other people in which we give and receive.