MW Cook

an ex-evangelical doing a year of living christianly

Tag: community

Communion

One of the biggest pains in spiritual deconstruction is lost community. We were bound together in Christ. When Christ is gone, that bond is broken. I feel this most pointedly at church when I am warned by the pastor not to take part in communion. The Lord’s table is for the Lord’s people, he tells us. For unbelievers like myself, it would be a meal of judgment rather than blessing.

Communion signals the kind of relationship Churchgoers are to have with each other: Eating from the same loaf and drinking from the same cup, as if all were one body. It’s like the feeding of the 5000; no one gets their own, but everyone gets enough.

On New Year’s Eve, I sat around a table with old friends. One of us had a glass of wine. Another came with a freshly-baked roll. Spontaneously, we tore pieces from the roll, dipped them in the wine, and ate together. I realized I don’t need church services for this kind of communion. I can commune with my people, wherever I find them.

Happy New Year, and may you have people to share bread and wine with.

My Toronto Flood Story

The subway only took me as far as Jane, where shuttle buses had been called to stand in for the flooded underground. There were hundreds of us spilling onto the street, trying to see over each other’s umbrellas to glimpse any coming buses. The rain was not cold, so it didn’t bother me that I seemed to be the only one without an umbrella. It was a very Canadian moment, because we all seemed to be in reasonably good moods, considering. I smiled when I looked up at the dark sky. A woman made a joke as an empty bus drove by. Laughter rippled across the crowd.

Source: huffingtonpost.ca

Source: huffingtonpost.ca

Our shuttle arrived and we pushed our way on it with surprising gentleness. We weren’t a mob trying to get that last seat. We were a crowd banding together to weather a storm. And there’s something wonderfully fun about banding together with strangers.

The bus sped down dark streets that were usually alive with noisy lights. We pressed tightly against each other, forgetting how awkward it is to be around strangers. It was one of those rare moments where Toronto and rural Pakistan meet. The crowded bus. The dark city. The tightly-packed strangers. The absence of anxiety. When we had to detour because of flooded underpasses, we joked about it. When the bus began to stall and the lights flickered, we trusted our driver who told us that she would get us to Kipling, come hell or high water.

She got us through the high water. But we didn’t come up against hell until we arrived at Kipling Station.

Many of us needed to transfer to the 45. It pulled into the station just as we arrived. The crowd clustered around it had little of the positive energy the shuttle had. Even as the doors were opening to empty to bus for us, people were yelling and swearing at each other. There were threats of violence as people shoved each other out of the way to cram onto the bus. Being swift of foot and small of frame, I was one of the lucky ones who made it.

The ride was angry and long. The people were angry because the bus driver was late in returning to his seat. The bus driver was angry because people would not keep behind the white line.

“I’ve been waiting four hours!”

“I’ve been working six!”

Emotions escalated until the driver threatened to pull over and kick us off. That shut the noise off, but did nothing for the atmosphere. It was a different feeling as we crawled up the dark streets that time. We weren’t a community struggling against a storm. We were strangers fighting for limited space.

The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
– John Milton

On Starting a Commune

I first starting thinking about it after leaving college. Because dorm life was so fun. It was so fun that I just couldn’t understand why we quit doing it.

My wife thought the same thing.

So why live alone? Why create a single-spaced hole when it’s just so much more fun to live with others?

So we took a step forward. We convinced a friend to move in with us.

It was glorious. It brightened our lives.

Yummy.

We’re taking the next step today.

Three families. One apartment.

A test of intimate community.

A sounding of life-rythms.

For life is a journey that no family needs to walk alone.

Back to dorm-life.

Back to Acts-living.

People look at me funny when I tell them. I guess I understand that. Living in community is so very rare on this side of the ocean that people automatically assume things about poison kool-aid and stuff. It’s too bad, though. Because sharing life tends to give birth to a more abundant type of life. A deeper, realer life. A more natural life. Because we have not evolved to live sequestered away in cells, cut off from our fellow-man. No. We are made to be together. That’s one of the reasons why, I think, we suffer from so much anxiety and mental stress in the West. We are alone in this artificial sea of people.

Is it frustrating to live in a community? Is it hard to balance the life-rythms of others? Is it difficult to adapt to the strange habits and personalities of complex people? Yes.

But it’s better than living alone.

Because when there are people, there is love.

And nothing beats love.

Hallowed Thoughts

Halloween gets a bad rap. And I can understand why. There’s something kinda creepy about pretending to be dead things. I get that. I also get how Halloween tends to encourage consumerism and poor lifestyle choices (though not nearly so much as Christmas). And, let’s face it, wandering the dark streets on a crisp autumn day doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

But as I took the kids out Trick or Treating last night a few thoughts hit me that nearly fully redeemed the holiday in my mind.

  • – Halloween encourages community. When else would you ever knock on your neighbour’s door? When would you go out of your way to meet new people?
  • – Halloween encourages giving. And not the quid pro quo giving that goes on at Christmas. Halloween giving can’t be repaid. Those funny-looking kids have no means to repay you for your handfuls of goodies. That’s a Jesus kinda giving.
  • – Halloween reminds you that there are other people living on your street and in your town. And in a culture like ours, where the national past-time is staying inside with the people you already know, that’s a good reminder to have.
  • – Halloween reminds you of death. Creepy, eh? But I feel sometimes like we are a society of immortals. Death is pushed aside and given fake names (Oh, he passed away). Halloween is a modern Danse Macabre. And through it we have no choice but to remember the frailty of life and the worthlessness of earthly glory.
  • -Halloween lets you dress up, and that’s just way too fun!

So give Halloween a chance!