Potlucks, Gangs and Laughter

Submitted by Wellesley Menno... on June 4, 2013 - 12:19pm
A community conversation with a faith group in KW

On June 2nd 2013, Derek Alton facilitated a conversation during Wellesley Mennonite Church’s Adult Christian Education hour as part of Tamarack’s “1000 Conversations to Shape our Future”.

About 25 people participated and in small groups were asked “What does Wellesley Mennonite Community mean to you?” and “Why is Wellesley Mennonite Church important to you?” Over and over people acknowledged the importance and appreciation of care during times of need. We were also reminded that we share not just during the hard times but also during the happy times. Community is a place to seek care when in need and to celebrate when filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. It was shared that our community is valued because it is a place where one is immediately accepted, and there is the freedom to be genuine: to cry, to laugh, to question, etc.

      Community BBQ

Food was a theme that seemed to dominate our conversation as well. Food tends to be central to our community in various ways. It brings us together as we socialize around the table at potlucks, we hold a community BBQ once a year open to all from the town of Wellesley. Food is given to those with new babies or recovering from surgery, sickness, or other situations of need. Food is a way to show the care of the community in a very practical and helpful way.

We also spent time thinking through what our community’s blind spots may be. One small group spent the majority of their time talking about the young adult demographic. In a small rural town many of our youth go off to school or work outside of this community. We realized we need to spend more time understanding what the church’s role is in these young people lives: how we can support them from afar, bless them as they go, and encourage them to get connected with other faith communities. At the same time, we recognize that Wellesley is a growing town with many new young families not connected with a church. What do we have to offer these young families?

                           WMC Booth at Apple Butter & Cheese Festival

In the last few minutes of our discussion we acknowledged the reality that not all communities are healthy ones. Gangs, for example, provide a community, but not in line with what we would understand a healthy community to be. We also recognized the continuing emergence of the virtual or online communities which challenge our understanding and definitions of community.

Our discussion was a healthy one, and perhaps a good indicator of that was that at the end of the morning we were left with more questions than answers. Community is not a one hour conversation, but a continuing conversation of listening and sharing together.



Thanks so much for providing a reflection on the community conversation held at your church. I found it interesting reading the reflection.

The reflection on gangs made me stop and think- you said, "Gangs, for example, provide a community, but not in line with what we would understand a healthy community to be" Gangs can be absolutely abusive and encourage criminal behaviour which would be counter to the values of most people, especially those of the church so I understand this comment and reflection. However, as I consider my own experience with inner city folks (as I have volunteered/been present downtown Kitchener for a number of years now and so have come in contact with youth who would be involved in gangs) who would wind up in gangs, I realize that event these communities offer people what they long for- connection instead of isolation, a common purpose, a collective identity... Those in gangs might, in fact, experience an even deeper sense of community than most of us, as they are put into dramatic situations, causing them to rely on those their group/community.