Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why Does the Church Have Community Gatherings?

What are community gatherings? I’m talking about luncheons, dinners, dances, and other holiday celebrations like New Year’s Eve and Mothers’ Day.

I hear from fans all the time about the “good old days” when communities gathered for Nameday celebrations AS A COMMUNITY when “The Georges” would all get together and sponsor a celebration. Communities gathered for picnics and enjoyed each other’s company at parks. Those days are long gone, but the communities are still there? What happened to the community gatherings? They lost their purpose. Community celebrations became fundraisers and obligations rather than fellowship. Even Sunday coffee hours can become a burden to convince families to host something simple so members could connect as friends “over a cup of coffee and a cookie” before returning to another work week.

But human beings need fellowship in order to be human. When God created man, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” (Genesis 2.18) and He created woman. He created humanity in the image of God, in community. Even the Greek work άνθρωπος (anthropos) is a reference to man and woman “face to face” or άνο-τρόπος. The truth is WE NEED FELLOWSHIP to be human. Humans must live IN COMMUNITY.

But Churches are not just any community. They are Orthodox Christian Communities dedicated to living together AS Orthodox Christians. Community life is important, not because it is fellowship, but because it is Orthodox Christian fellowship. It reinforces the Orthodox Christian lifestyle that we each struggle to live. It is easier to be Orthodox in a community than to be Orthodox alone. Even hermits belong to a community and regularly join each other for fellowship during critical times of life. When the Orthodox Community gathers, it fasts together, it prays together, it laughs together, it cries together, it celebrates together. It does all these, and more, AS ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS, helping each other to become more and more like God in our lives.

I said recently, “We don’t need the Church to have a party. We have Church parties so we can be Orthodox and still celebrate without forgetting who we are as Orthodox Christians.” It is too easy to forget who we are outside the Church. It is just easier to fall into temptation outside the Church. Saint John Chrysostom even encouraged fellowship AT CHURCH because it would help believers fight the temptations of the world.  He said, “The meetings there are far more pleasant than those which take place in marts and fairs. The people themselves also will be more respectable.” (Homily 18 On Acts)

So the next time you read about a Church gathering in the Sunday bulletin, I want you to think about how the gathering will help you be Orthodox. Whether it is senior citizen brunch, GOYA bowling, or Philoptochos Dinner, always remember it is about being Orthodox Christians TOGETHER! Then....make plans to join the community in fellowship AND faith.

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