Following last night's celebration of the last night of Hanukkah, I am struck afresh with my ongoing struggle to define community.
Here's the issue; our congregation is rare. Does that sound arrogant? I certainly don't mean it to, but it is a fact that we have had many visitors tell us this very thing upon spending time with us. We have people contact us from around the country, and the world even, wanting to know about us and desiring to visit. It never fails to amaze me. But, what is that special element that makes us different from other congregations?
As I was interacting with everyone last night, I tried to step aside and just observe. I know how I feel, personally, when I walk through our congregation...this is my family, my people. I know them all and they know me. I know their loves and fears, weaknesses and talents, just as much as they know mine. Their expressions and body movements are so familiar and comfortable...I feel safe. We have vehemently agreed in unison when an outsider suggests something that departs from our doctrine and we have hotly debated each other with a passion that reveals the love we have for one another. I know that you can't find that just anywhere, to be honest.
We are a family, too. The children are adored and cared for by everyone; we know them and expect the best from them, as they are our future. We have beloved sisters and brothers that we confide our deepest secrets and fears to, the parents and elders that we look up to for advice and guidance, the silly aunts and uncles that are so endearing and special, and the nieces and nephews that add the spark of youth to us all.
We have shared history; weddings and funerals, laughing 'til we cry and deep sorrow that cuts to the core. We have sweat dancing to exhaustion and repeatedly sang the songs of praise with meaning and intention. We have shared time together, table together and celebrated deeply meaningful festivals together. We have studied - oh man, have we studied together. We have shared the same trepidation of the future while affirming steadfastness to our beliefs. Yeah, we have a history that is like a ghost that appears when we congregate, somehow invisibly binding us together.
Oh sure, we have our faults...but perhaps what sets this community apart is how we handle these issues. When things get emotional, as they sometimes do, I remind myself of what we have, and the fact that none of us are going anywhere. We all know that what we have is special and a gift...honestly, there is no where else for us to go.
I am truly blessed, privileged, fortunate and honored to be a part of this family of believers. It far exceeds the norm, in my view. So, did I manage to define community? Nah...I think it defies definition. That's alright though, as is true with our congregation; it changes and evolves, adapts and reforms itself to the will of our Master. And, that's all good with me.