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Here’s how you form a real community

When I was about 14, my mom and I went to the funeral of a much older relative–my first. I don’t remember much about it except this: All the adults stood around eating and chatting, mostly about fishing. Being 14, I didn’t get it. What was the point of that? Traveling hundreds of miles to chat about fishing? At a funeral?

I’m so glad I’ll never be 14 again.

Recently, I traveled with my husband to the funeral of his last aunt. She had lived a long, full life–she was close to 100 years old when she died, and her children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!), nephews and nieces, in-laws and friends and neighbors gathered at the church where she had been baptized so long ago. The service was lovely, and afterward, there was a luncheon.

And all the adults stood around eating and chatting. In between bites of cake and sips of coffee, people who hadn’t seen each other for days or for decades traded stories and memories, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. (And we found out most of us are on Facebook!)

Chatting about fishing and family trees is how people maintain their bonds. Click To Tweet

Several people had brought cameras, so we all crowded together in front of the fireplace–not just the children and grandchildren, but all of us, nieces, nephews, in-laws, neighbors, friends, children of friends–all of us, and the waitresses snapped pictures on everyone’s cameras.

There weren’t any 14-year-olds around that day, but if there had been, I know what at least one of them might have thought. But I think I understand better now.

Standing around eating and chatting about fishing, family trees and Facebook is how people form and maintain the bonds of kinship and friendship. It’s how we form community, and the more people we welcome in, the warmer and stronger that community is. That’s the point.

We Women of the ELCA understand that kind of thing. An organization like ours isn’t all about conventions, constitutions, and committees–it’s about forming community. And we form community in the time we spend together eating and chatting, welcoming the stranger, growing in faith, supporting one another, engaging in ministry and action and talking about fishing.  Everyone gets to be in the pictures.

How’s the community of women in your congregation?  Who in your church family would you like to invite into the picture?

Audrey Novak Riley is director for stewardship for Women of the ELCA.

Comments (3)
Margi says:
Jun 05, 2017

This is so true. My own family has often commented that the only times we get together are weddings and funerals. Our faith community, at conventions and retreats, always asks for time to visit with each other as we are very spread out and we try to listen by scheduling time for crafts or relaxation together with visiting and walks and canoeing/ kayaking and playing cards (late eve mostly). The comments always say how good it is to reconnect.

Becky Shurson says:
Jun 05, 2017

“Everyone gets to be in the pictures.” What a beautiful metaphor, Audrey.

Linda Graffius says:
Jun 05, 2017

We have 2 active Circles of “older” women. I don’t know what I would do without my faith sisters. I wish we could get some of the younger women to learn the value of this relationship.

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