September 14, 2022 | Conference Minister Musings by Phil Hodson

A community is a group of people who come together around shared values. Sometimes it’s a common enemy. Others a common set of values or beliefs. Communities are important and they matter. They reflect a pluralized society, made up of many groups come together with a common interest. In the best of times, communities are a draw, and they invite individuals in to be part of something larger than themselves. Often we talk of the church as community, and often that is reflective of who we endeavor to be.

But a word more reflective of the church is communion. A communion is a group of people who come together around a shared loss. A shared experience of lack in their various lived experiences. Every time we celebrate this meal, we celebrate together. And in our celebration we remember Jesus’ death. We share in remembrance, in mystery, in the experience of something common yet unique, something we cannot explain that shapes us. I think, today, this word might better reflect what we strive to be in the world. In this moment of intense difference, where we accentuate that which sets us apart from the “other,” instead of what binds us together; communion invites us into a unity of purpose, a unity of full experience, centered around a shared sense of loss. This loss is more prescient for us today, given all we’ve been through together these past few years. And perhaps communion may be more valuable to our connections with others, to growth in relationships (which is the core nature of our shared faith), than developing community. Maybe we develop communions.

One of the distinctives of our life together in the United Church of Christ is our commitment to unity over conformity. We each interpret the Scriptures and relate to our faith through our lived experiences. We embrace diversity in opinion and unity in purpose. This is counter-cultural. It stands against what we see happening in the world around us. And it reflects our shared communion. That we together worship a God who came and walked among us. Who experienced life as we do, in both joy and sorrow. A God in Jesus Christ who invited us to love our neighbors as ourselves because there is no “other,” only diversity in experience. We are united through that diversity in experience. Through our joys and griefs, known by all of us, we can break bread together.

And I’m convinced people are looking for communities shaped like that. Communities of communion. Where unity is more important than conformity. Where all can be one. May it be so for us.