There are times you receive a glimpse of the beloved community that God desires for our world. I had the chance to see two separate views of community this week. Following my final worship service with Winamac First UMC last Sunday, I went to Saint Gregory’s Abbey, a Benedictine Episcopalian monastery in Michigan. I had a desire to simply be with God in prayer, silence, and Eucharist. I also wanted to go away, as Jesus often did, to pray. I mostly prayed for the transition and for my new congregation, Sr. Pastor, and the staff of Meridian Street UMC. As I arrived at the monastery, I could sense the anxiety and emotion of the last few weeks weighing on me. I joined the monks for Vespers (which is the prayer time at 5:00pm), but I felt like my spirit wasn’t still at all.
The meals at a Benedictine monastery are often eaten in silence (breakfast is in complete silence and during lunch/dinner a brother reads from a book). On Sunday evening we had a community dinner where we sat on the back porch; me, one other guest, and the brothers. It was nice to catch up with them, share stories and jokes, and enjoy life together. This was one glimpse of the beloved community, where we, as brothers in Christ, prayed together, ate together, and lived together.
Following my brief retreat at Saint Gregory’s, I drove to Epworth Forest Camp to join my wife Candace and our five high school girls for summer camp. Camp is filled with exciting praise music, games, and a lot of fun. We lived together for a week, prayed together, laughed together, worshipped together, and lived as the beloved community.
My experience this week reflected Acts 2 in many ways, the fellowship of believers which says, “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
This week I experienced beloved community in two very different places. I believe it’s the way that God desires us to live and be as the church. Following the tragedy in Charleston, SC this week, it’s in the beloved community where we learn to live together and hope together. I pray that, as a community, we will work to end racism, hatred, and violence; where we learn to live in the perfect, beloved community of God.