Originally Posted on September 20, 2011 by St Barnabas Anglican Parish of the Bluff
A commentary on, “Community and Growth” by Jean Vanier
Vanier says, “When towns are depersonalised and depersonalising, many people are looking for community.” (Vanier 1982:5) Cities and towns can be places of unhappy people. The city can take toil on one, especially family life. In the city or town we have many lonely people. So a community like a parish can really foster relationships and can be place where one finds a home. At the same time within a community one can feel oppressed by those with strong egos, ambitions and those who have a neck of upsetting people. Vanier calls this signs of our ‘poverty,’ when we have the inability to live with others and insisting on our own way. The poverty that is within us begins to show when we are living in the community. It is when we remove the bravado and begin to pay the price of understanding the other and not letting our egos take over. Vanier makes the point that whilst we lived outside the community we had the perception that we were loved by all and we loved all. However, when we have become party of the community we discover to our shock and horror that we incapable of loving everyone. Vanier says, “Love seems an illusion.” (Vanier 1982:5) “So community life brings a painful revelation of our limitations weakness and darkness: the unexpected discovery of the monsters within is hard to accept.” (Vanier 1982:5) The easiest thing to do is to flee from our monsters and being to point out the monsters in others. This inevitable makes us feel very good. However Vanier says that healing begins to take place when we accept that we have monsters and “we can let them out and learn to tame them.” (Vanier 1982: 6) Vanier says this is growth towards liberation. Scripture says, “ Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? … You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7 vs. 1-6). Facing the self is a daunting task but it is in doing this that we are freed. Vanier makes the point that a community is a place of liberation; it is when we accept ourselves and others. When this happens can authentic relationships began. One of the reason people are always church hopping is that they have not found acceptance: what they come across is egos which are barrier to relationships. “In the community life we discover our own deepest wound and learn to accept it. So our rebirth can begin. It is from this very wound that we are born.” (Vanier 1982:6) A community gives us a sense of belonging. What is important in the community in this case our parish of St Barnabas-Bluff is to strive for good relationships and when that happens we will become a beacon to the bluff. People will be attracted to this community not because of the buildings but of authentic relationships. When we work towards good relationships then the temporary identities of colour, tribe, class, nationality fall away for we will be able to proclaim that we are belong to Jesus Christ and through him do we find our true identity.
Fr. Barnabas Nqindi
My name is Barnabas Sibusiso Nqindi, rector of St Barnabas-Bluff. I enjoy a good debate and I love to see people grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ