Three words that I grew up associating with the life of a New Church congregation were worship, instruction and social life. I associated social life with recreation events. I now prefer the term “community” rather than social life. Recreational events can help build a healthy sense of community but are only one of the ways that a strong sense of community can be formed among the people of this congregation.
One of the opportunities for building community that has served far beyond the Bryn Athyn congregation is the Bryn Athyn Thrift Shop, affectionately known as BATS. BATS has produced community through the many volunteers over the years working together, often in inter-generational overlaps. It has produced community by serving many customers both from Bryn Athyn and the surrounding communities. The warm caring of the people and the environment produced by the barn and other buildings and trees have touched many people’s hearts. The new building plans, if approved, will mean that BATS needs to find a new home with the current plan of disassembling the barn. This is sad news to those who have loved the barn as it currently serves BATS. Our strong commitment is to seek the best setting for BATS to continue to serve its useful function and continue to build the community connections that it has in the past.
My experience has been that often work parties can also help build a sense of community better than many social events. Whether it be a work party at the school or a Pay-It- Forward Crew project at someone’s home or cooking together in the church kitchen, serving a use side-by-side with others helps build friendships. People who have participated in a small doctrinal class or Journey small group also can build a strong sense of community with the people they got to know. Next time they meet, conversational openers can easily be on a more significant level than a comment on the weather or the latest sports event.
A strong sense of community is especially important as the joys and sorrows of life unfolds. The Lord has told us “to feel another's joy as joy in oneself, this is to love (Divine Love & Wisdom 47). Being able to rejoice with others is a wonderful experience. Sensing another person is sorry when tragedy happens comes with this capability of rejoicing. For the individual or family facing such a tragedy is hugely important to recognize that they are not experiencing the sadness alone. Many who care for them also are with them in heart and mind. It is tremendously important to the life of this congregation that we share a strong sense of community knitting us together as a group who is trying to be led by the Lord and serve Him, each in our own way. Thank you for what you do to help build and support this community.