“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone...” Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
In these past weeks we have been having conversations about the place and power of community. To underscore this we have borrowed a beautiful word from our Māori Language, ‘Whanaungatanga’. Derived from the word Whanau, it invites us to consider the actual relationship, or sense of connection that grows through shared experiences, that in turn provide a sense of belonging.
Belonging is one of humanity’s greatest needs. In unpacking that word we can hear the cry of the human soul that ‘longs-to-be’; to be whole, satisfied and true to the core of the self. Even though this implies a sense of an individual journey of transformation, it can only be undertaken alongside another, for to be a human, or a person, is only possible in relationship with others. Hence the great need to be part of communities that enable human flourishing.
Aside from natural families or whanau, communities that form usually (initially) comprise a company of strangers who come around a common idea, ideology, dream, philosophy or interest. These are like ‘pop up’ communities, gatherings that become havens of healing and transformation, opportunities to become one’s true self birthed out of the strength of solidarity, sharing in a common goal. The word healing in its simplest form means to become sound or healthy again, implying that there was a time when we were not.
The Church is one such community, where the core value of ‘love’ is our catalyst, emulating and imaging the words of Jesus to ‘Love God…and to love our neighbor’ and is itself is a community of healing. Everybody knows it’s much easier to love those that are like us rather than those who are different, however that might look. But the church can be a company of strangers who, if able to stay together for the long haul, invite a way of being that forces change, enabling us to be stretched and enlarged people. Ourselves being recipients and in turn givers of healing to the family of the Earth.
Let’s embrace Whanaungatanga.