We began our Celebration Day held recently at Bishopbriggs Community Church with a wonderful compilation video in which guests, volunteers and staff each spoke of something they were thankful for. It is striking, even if at first it is not all that surprising, that we all expressed gratitude and thankfulness for people. Nobody from my recollection said anything about things, possessions, business or income or any other non-relationship centred reason for thankfulness. It may be a slightly artificial example to use as a proof that our vision aims are consistent with who and what we are but I will take it. It is truly a ministry of connecting the unconnected.
If the family unit is the fundamental incubator for all human flourishing and connection then it is in part because within a deep and interconnected unit we are provided with exemplars, teachers, nurturers and providers. We have developed as a human beings to be raised by an entire village and it is in the people of our respective villages that we have our own reflectors, those in whose footsteps we follow and whose image we are raised. We reflect the village back to itself and they in turn reflect our own image back to us and we belong.
When thinking about this depth of community, essential for human survival for the vast majority of our existence, it is possible to see how radical a deprivation it would represent to have been an orphan. It is possible to get a sense of what kind of a punishment it would have been to be cast out of a community, to be shunned. It would be like a death sentence going against every instinct and forcing one away from the very safety nets which makes survival possible in a lawless world. The same might be true of the sick, the weak, the slave etc.
I propose that it is hard for us retain the necessary perspective on just how traumatising it is to be alienated from a deep and sustaining community in our day. We have moved through industrialisation from rural family groupings and flooded into urban centres in search of work and gradually the family unit has been eroded and given way to much looser, far shallower communities which do not serve us in the ways a deep and authentic community can. More and more in a highly individualised culture even shallow communities are becoming rare. We are a disconnected people. We are starving at the level of a pandemic and yet no real fuss is made about it. We are not starving from physical hunger but we are starved of reflectors, nurture, affirmation and support, embrace, starved of love.
The early Church was a radical bottom up revolutionary community made up of cells which constituted family groupings. ‘Primitive’ churches provided all of the sustaining and nourishing aspects of a family group. A healing community empowered by the Holy Spirit who were not afraid to ‘go deeper’ with one another. These church communities changed the world. Today everyone is an orphan, only we don’t realise it. It has become so common an experience it has become the norm, but it is not normal. In Christ there are no orphans but we have forgotten what being an orphan means. The church is a sanctuary and hospital of the soul in which orphans of the world should find the depth they need to be nourished and which a broken world might be truly thankful for.