In any community there will be always be a lot of focus on what we do. That’s fine - the actions of the community, its surface life - are important. But behind the activity is something less obvious, more subtle, and perhaps even more important. This is what I think of as the spirit of the community.
Almost every family, project, team, society or business has a spirit or value system, often unrecognised, and sometimes less than positive. Gracious or greedy, caring or care-less, transparent or manipulative [or a mix of those] - the spirit of a community is how it feels to encounter it - and the spirit of thing has the power to create something beautiful - or to trash it.
When combined with ‘the big idea’ [see the previous 'ways into... no 3'] a good spirit can produce something truly creative - a community that in small ways begins to reshape us and the world around us for good. So it can be really helpful in beginning a new community to identify what we hope the spirit will be, describe it, and begin to try to live it.
One way of getting a handle on this idea of spirit is to ask this question: how will we be when we are doing the things we hope to do? This is a question about the sort of people we want to be as we journey. It’s about how we do anything - and as one of my mentors Fr Richard Rohr says - ‘how we do anything is how we do everything!’ So, for example, how do we do the washing up? Happily, together, well? Or reluctantly, left for others, badly?
So what might be the spirit of the community-project that you are part of, or that you hope will come into being? Can you describe the spirit somehow - and if so what words or pictures convey this?
[Look out for the next posting in this series:  being shaped by your setting]
Peace to you Ian
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
ways into small missional community  finding the spirit of the community
Here's the 4th of the postings I'm doing on creating and sustaining community for the small missional communities online network.