When we first sought community in Texas, we were a part of a rather large church congregation. It topped over 2500 when we moved to New York. Regardless, a community of that size was really tough to navigate without looking for opportunities to embrace the smaller aspects. One of those such ways was to join up for Suppers. Now, in the south, the evening meal seems to be called dinner, but these were Suppers for Six. It just doesn’t work with dinners.
We signed up. A few times. The reason we signed up a few times was because, we learned, our signup got misplaced or we didn’t do it right or whatever. But, needless to say, persistence paid off. We eventually got paired up in a group. The other couples in our group were Mark and Carrieanne and Todd and Stefanie. There was another couple, but we lost touch somehow, or they were reassigned a different base (military and medical careers were common in our congregation due to the location of the church).
The idea is simple. Once a month, the 3 couples (or 4 in our case) would gather for dinner (sans children) in one of the homes of the group members. Nothing fancy. Just a simple dinner. The non-hosting couples would bring a dish to pass, probably the salad or dessert. This started out the first fall season we were there. After all, community is important to us. It’s what makes a place start to feel like home – like we aren’t “fish out of water”.
Todd and Stef became good friends to us pretty quickly. They eventually had kids the same age as ours and we often watched each others’ kids for the next several years. One of my favorite photos somewhere tucked away is from their son’s birthday party when Rachel was riding along in a battery-powered car as their son’s passenger. It made my heart hurt way back then about the fact that someday, she would be riding off in a car with another boy to start her life together with him.
I recall another weekend when Sandi was about to have Rebekah and we bopped up to Fort Worth for a culture-filled experience of a honkytonk bar featuring Blackhawk and Les Miserables earlier that day. They were so gracious to have watched Rachel for the entire weekend – Mother’s day, no less.
That’s still what we’re looking for in our lives. We just haven’t found it for our entire family since we left Texas. And I’m still trying to understand why that is. But, for now, we have memories and are making attempts of various types to find it again. Because we know from experience that it really does exist. And it’s worth it, if even for a season.
What does your experience of face-to-face (yes, I said it) community look like and how do you maintain it with intentionality and grace? And how, if the rest of your family isn’t involved on the start, how do you bring them into community that is already forming?