By Mary Kaye Falcony
Last weekend my daughter and I had a wonderful opportunity to take a few days and travel back home before the summer comes to a close. We traveled to a cousin’s home in Northern Ohio and spent time with the “Peloza girls” (my aunts and cousins) for the entire weekend. I can’t say that we did anything out of the ordinary, but the time spent together was extraordinary! The gathering of three generations – spanning from ages 77 to 11 – is something to behold.
In the early morning, you could find us all gathered on the screened-in porch with the day’s first cup of coffee in hand, and all of us engaged in lively conversation. Eventually, by early afternoon, we moved on to enjoy some afternoon fun; but we soon found ourselves gravitating to the back porch and ending the day as it began – gathered together and talking until the wee hours of the night.
Our conversations included a great deal of catching up; but even more than that, there were hours spent telling cherished family stories. In our remembering, we joined to us all those who have journeyed to the next life. Even though our family members are no longer with us physically, the reality of their presence in our lives has in no way diminished. It was easily seen how each of them left a part of themselves in some form for each of us to carry. Our shared faith also found its way into the conversation – we spoke of our images of God, how we pray, our questions, and answers revealed.
As I drove the nine hours back to Evansville, all that I experienced of the weekend replayed in my mind. I thought of how growing up with shared meals, long conversations and sharing of faith happened very organically – this was just part of life. It was in experiencing those very ordinary things that I came to feel loved, valued and in a place where I belonged.
The realization came to me that this is not necessarily true for many individuals today. Because of our mobile society, how many of us live far from extended family? Some of us no longer even live close to immediate family – brothers, sisters or even parents for that matter.
Since these circumstances are so prevalent for many, how are life-giving connections made for individuals today? The bigger question may be that if connections that give a sense of belonging and community are lacking, how do Disciples of Christ seize opportunities to be connected to others in big and small ways? I think part of our answer may be found in the way of our first Christian communities.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we are introduced to a community of believers, those who follow Jesus the Christ. The lives of these believers give witness to their relationship with Jesus (horizontal); and because of that intimacy, grace given spills out in relationships with others (vertical). This type of living is captured in the Greek word Koinonia which is translated as communion, community and participation. This type of living was conspicuous for the time and offered something (really someone) that brought authentic fulfillment. This undeniable fulfillment drew non-believers in, and larger communities were formed.
I tend to believe that in the age when so many long for community, connectedness and may feel isolated, we as Christians need to be conspicuous! We need to stand out and reach out. We have something extraordinary to share – life in Jesus Christ! Just as our ancestors in faith drew people in by their witness, we, through God’s grace, may do the same.
Falcony is coordinator of programs and resources for the Office of Catechesis. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.