Published on Sep 10th, 2015 by wpd-office | 0

Wendell Berry is a Kentucky farmer. He has been on the same land for 40 years, give or take a few, and he has strong opinions about how farming should be done. He also has strong opinions about how forestry should be done, since he lives also on forested land. And he has strong opinions about the value of the “commonwealth” that lies in community and how it should be passed along. I picked up his book, Another Turn of the Crank, at our latest Annual Conference, and I am slowly reading and savoring it! His belief is that, no matter where we live or why we live there, we should cultivate community and be a proud, eager part of it. He would say that community is the place in which we should have our economy, learn our geography and history, and cultivate the values that will help us and hold us throughout our lives.

So some of us live in small communities. Some of us live in larger communities. And some of us live in a city setting that does not seem very much like community. And yet, we all live in a community of sorts that exists because we are the Church of the Brethren. Our communities now are stretched across miles and miles of mountains and prairies and treed grasslands and corn rows and milo fields and expanses of wheat! Our communities are as diverse as the city dwellers whose sophistication is showing (or not) and as real as the farming communities whose virtues lie in their solid, no-nonsense approach to life. Our communities sing from the Hymnal and from a myriad of songbooks. Our communities reach out in blankets and food and backpacks. Our communities have formal worship services and are totally informal. Our communities are small and smaller and big and bigger.

What is it then, that keeps us together? What is it that calls us to be community to one another across all those miles? What is it that makes us call ourselves the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains? What is our “common wealth” that we share with our children and remind our elders about? What is our heritage and our future that we want to celebrate and look forward to? I would like to posit some ideas about what makes us a community across not only miles, but sometimes differences of opinion and ways of being and doing.

I believe that we ARE Church of the Brethren. We are a people of people—whenever we can we are together. We are with one another. Somehow, we have a love for one another that transcends any other thing!! That is foremost in our care and compassion for one another, and that makes me so very, very glad! Secondly, we are a people of anointing. We want to reach out to people who are hurting and give them our utmost with prayer for the best they can experience. We also are a people of baptizing. When someone comes to us to become more solidly a part of our churches, we believe that the first step is the decision to be baptized, in the name of the God who creates us, the Christ who redeems us, and the Holy Spirit who is with us now and forever! As the water washes over our heads, we know that we will never be the same, and that baptism has been with us for our whole lives! We are a people of Love Feast. As we examine our hearts, wash our feet, eat together, and share the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, we are profoundly moved to be the best people we can be, and we do so over and over again, striving to get it right! These are profound ways that we are together and believe together. And one more thing—we are a people of camping! Just try to say anything about camps, and see what happens!!!

Whatever we are, however, we are the community that is together in so very many wonderful ways. Yes, some of us go off on our own. Some of us think we can do without one another. We cannot, however, forever go off on our own. We have a “common wealth” to share with one another and our children and our elders. We live together in ways that influence our being, and truth be told, we like it that way! We share our heritage and plan for our future. We have the gain of our compassion and our pleasure. So says Wendell Berry, and perhaps he, and we, have it right!

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Sonja Griffith,
District Executive Minister

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