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What does Community look like at Shantz Mennonite Church (Waterloo Region)?
During a Sunday School hour (Mar 10, 2013), thirty adults gathered to discuss the reality of community within their congregation. They discussed how community happens, the reasons for it, and how this community experience could be deepened.
Community happens each Sunday morning through the gathering of people for worship. In particular, the sharing time was mentioned where people share their joys and their concerns which enhance this community feel. People shared stories of how the congregation prays, provides food, and support for those going through surgery, illness, death, and loss due to a fire or loss of employment. The other aspect of community at Shantz is its intergenerational nature. Many events involve the interaction of children, youth, adults, and older adults like the children musical, mission trips, Volleyball nights, community skating, worship, and youth-led events. Another component of the community at Shantz is that all people’s gifts are valued. The church council chair commented how people are quick to volunteer and take leadership and so everyone carries the responsibility of the church organization, not just him or the pastor. These were some of the key community experiences at Shantz.
The reason this community atmosphere happens at Shantz were many but they were all tied to their understanding of the Christian faith. Community is an expression of how the congregation cares for one another through sharing of needs and then responding to them. Community also provides a caring spiritual family for people, a place where one feels belonging and a sense of identity, a place where one feels value and can contribute to the congregation’s sense of community and purpose. It was commented how community arises when people become vulnerable and take the risk to share their needs. However, this vulnerability only happens if the congregation also works at ensuring that it is a safe place for this vulnerable sharing. Stories were shared where this vulnerability happened at Shantz. Finally, since community is modelled throughout the church, the younger generations soon pick up on it, and it becomes a key part of what it means to be Christian for them.
In terms of deepening this community experience, the congregation struggled to find answers for this. It was highlighted that it was important for Shantz to reach out to people beyond its four walls so that this Christian caring is experienced beyond their congregation. The importance of vulnerability and safety was also mentioned as something that the church needs to continue nurturing.
The discussion this morning ended with the pastor asking for people to gather around a church participant for a time of prayer. This church participant was beginning a new job the next day and was anxious about this new venture. What a powerful demonstration of community.
Written by Gord Alton, a participant at Shantz Mennonite Church.