The most common definition of community is “a group of people living in the same place.” When David and I left our home group Bible study on Friday night, I turned to him and said, “Now that’s what community is all about.” While Emory is a wonderful place to live, I was referring to the kind of community that is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Our home group began meeting over a year ago, and we’ve been through a lot together. The obvious purpose of the group is to study the Bible. Darren Brumit, the Student Minister at Believers’ Baptist Church, has led us through a ten-month study of the book of Hebrews, and now we’re working our way through the Minor Prophets. As you might have guessed, speed is not a high priority. We ask lots of questions, and we don’t move on until everyone is ready. Through the process, we learn a lot about God, and we learn a lot about each other.
The group is stable but not static. Attendance averages around twenty, but it’s not always the same twenty. Sometimes Pastor Darren misses because he’s helping Pastor Jason announce a Wildcat football game. One family misses occasionally because the mom is running a marathon, another because the kids have t-ball, and others because family is visiting from out of town. They always come back, though, or almost always. One family moved to be closer to work, and another couple relocated when he was called to serve a church as youth minister. Although we miss the ones who leave, new people and families join us, not filling the empty spaces, but creating their own places in the group.
Sometimes, especially when a meeting is near a holiday, we reluctantly cancel. We considered cancelling last Friday, but enough of us were free that we decided to go ahead and get together. By Friday morning, only three people had signed up on the wiki page. Did I mention that we eat before we study? We take turns providing the main dish and then sign up for side dishes, dessert, and so forth. Last week, in addition to the light sign up, we had a couple of last minute cancellations, but food had already been prepared, so seven of us gathered around a huge brisket, a large twice-baked-potato casserole, and a punch bowl full of Death by Chocolate.
Pastor Darren was one of the cancellations, so we planned an evening of fellowship around the table followed by a game or two. Before we finished dessert, the hostess received a text from one family who has missed several weeks due to a very stressful summer schedule.
“We need a break. We’re coming over.”
“Tell them there’s still plenty of food,” I quipped. The reply was a happy face.
Before the tired family arrived, we received another message from the young couple who took on the youth ministry in another town. They were doing some odd jobs locally and were looking for a place to grab a quick bite before heading home to plan for an upcoming youth camp. There was plenty of food for two more.
The six latecomers arrived around the same time and were greeted with smiles and hugs before they grabbed a plate. Those of us who had finished eating moved to the couch to make room at the table. The conversation began with questions about work and then moved on to more pleasant topics as we filled in what we had missed in each other’s lives. After everyone had eaten, we shared blessings and needs, and then we spent a few minutes in prayer. By the time we said “Amen,” tense expressions were replaced by relaxed smiles, and a rousing game of Spoons ensued. Some played while some sat on that sidelines and cheered for their favorites, but all of us laughed and had a great time.
Our Friday night home group is diverse, with members who are still in college and members who are retired. Some members are waiting for the right time to start a family while others share pictures of their grandchildren. Still, in diversity there is unity – “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” That’s community – that’s family.
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