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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

We're Not Meant to Quarantine, But By Grace We Reimagined Fellowship

It is understandable if you're feeling anxious and disconnected from friends and family these days. We're not meant to "social distance" or "quarantine" from one another.

As humans we're pack animals. We’re curious and vocal. Meaning we like to be with others like us. We want to live near others like us. We join groups on common shared interests. We want to engage and collaborate on what directly impacts and matters to us the most.

In turn, we built cities and neighborhoods to feed our desire to be near others.

We call it Community and it is a critical piece to our happiness and health.

Community com·mu·ni·ty (kəˈmyo͞onədē/) noun

1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. I like that the definition includes the word "fellowship". The two truly go together.

A word typically associated with churches; the idea of fellowship was established because many people came together with the shared interest of a Christ-centered life under the umbrella of the church building. In fact, because of fellowship, the church has long been a center of community.

As a child growing up in my hometown of Wichita, Kansas, our church, St. Paul's Lutheran was uniquely located downtown and in the center of the sprawling city. It made it easy for people to come from the east, west, south and north sides of town giving us kids an opportunity to develop deep friendships with others around the city.

What I remember most about St. Paul’s - aside of choir practice on Wednesday nights and my grandmother teaching Sunday School where birthday ages were counted in any language you wanted - is the potlucks. These women, of Swedish, Norwegian and German descent, knew how to cook and feed hundreds of people.

The memory and smells are still fresh as I remember - every kind of casserole, stew, chili, bread and desert. The one thing you couldn't miss were the 20 Jell-O salads lined up in front on the tables. Kids running around. People. Church members. Friends. Talking, sharing and laughing with one another in...fellowship.

We're really missing this right now. It's getting harder to stay indoors, social distance and fight the temptation to see friends or meet new people in order to experience the feeling of fellowship. It is, after all, what we're built to do.

We are not made to go through life alone, but together with others in our community of family, friends and neighbors. We crave fellowship. We crave being part of a community in all of its meanings - neighborhood, sports team, trivia night, beer club, choir, volunteering.

What makes it even more difficult is that in past times of challenge, we would normally turn immediately to our community for support and fellowship. And while most of us feel the empty place in our hearts that is missing time with friends and loved ones, "community" is still showing up for people every day.

We see it in the news and on social media. The videos of people finding ways to be of service to others in this unprecedented time of need. The compassion that understands that each person is important and vital to our communities.

The result, the opportunity to meet new people, one might not ever meet, and create moments of fellowship even six feet apart, while snowstorms give way to conversations with neighbors in a city where most keep to themselves.

You see, when we feel unable to do certain things, faith and ingenuity - powered by God's grace - inspires us to find a way. We find a new way to have fellowship in a community in quarantine, from a pandemic, and bone chilling cold through good works.

From food collections for the Lakeview Pantry, cleaning closets to donate clothing and shoes and home cooks cooking in bulk to share with those in need to social media groups dedicated to members simply listing good quality items to others at no cost - called "Buy Nothing" - we find a way.

We’ve discovered new tech and new ways to use old tech to keep in touch – video calls – and even further innovated how we used tech altogether to celebrate weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, holidays, virtual happy hours, museum tours, comedy shows and so much more.

The church discovered ways to use video to present virtual services and keep members involved, even though they have been unable to worship together. Fellowship has become virtual coffee hours.

People discovered talents or took on new hobbies and became part of a new virtual community. We continued to find ways to build community and connect when it’s been difficult to do that in the way we prefer – in person.

It's beautiful and amazing. It's more than what God calls us to do. It's the innate nature in each one of us. Community makes us feel less alone. Fellowship helps us feel love. Good works helps us feel valued and others to feel loved and less alone. And yet, we’re all struggling with this new definition of community and fellowship that we’ve had to develop this past year.

We all know the phrase “it takes a village”. This was an early reference to community and its collective power. It is something we must remember as we process those in need in our communities. Even ourselves. It is important now that we find and reach for moments of fellowship with neighbors, friends and loved ones and consider how we can be of service to those in need.

As it is said “this too shall pass” and that is a promise we can have faith in. In the meantime, how are you using the time given each day to create opportunities for fellowship and connection with others?

Jennifer Fortney is a member of the Church of Saint Luke and a contributor to The Lakeview Lutheran blog.

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