It may sound a little odd, but I really like my mechanic. I like him because I am very inadequate in my mechanical knowledge and I am grateful for anyone who can provide expertise and knowledge concerning my vehicle. As much as I appreciate his knowledge and his comprehensive understanding of my vehicle, I also value the fact that when he isn’t sure, he is upfront with me and willing to let me know what might be the problem and what the options are to fix it.
Despite the fact that it is only when my vehicle is in need of repair that I go to see him, I certainly feel at ease when I go, and am grateful for his caring quality and especially for his willingness to tell me about his day!
Having people in our lives who care about us, and who even take the time to greet us by name, is a wonderful and special gift. It warms our hearts and increases our sense of self-worth, as well as our faith in one another. Since I live in a smaller community, my mechanic is not the only one who knows me by name or greets me with words of welcome. I feel welcomed within the business sector and political circles, as well as the service and healthcare professions. These relationships offer me a good and healthy sense of belonging and connection.
As I visit congregations and observe their corporate life, I am delighted by the many experiences of welcome and genuine hospitality demonstrated through the church where congregations are engaging people within their communities. I consider this a wonderful quality and it certainly aligns with our understanding and expression of our faith in Christ, who shared everything with those whom he met.
Focussing and reminding ourselves of our common purpose is helpful and necessary, but is it enough? Being friendly is important and the rewards of such relationships are a blessing, but true authentic community is best formed when we can offer our own vulnerability and fragility. Meaningful relationships of trust and open honesty are best maintained and affirmed when we don’t ignore our human differences, but when we can welcome and accept them.
Creating authentic community begins with being real and living in the reality of who we are in light of God’s grace and goodness. Creating authentic commu-nities involves stretching ourselves beyond our usual comfortable places and inviting others to speak into our places of vulnerability and honest living.
I find tremendous hope in this challenge of what the church is called to be! Relationships are the life-giving source of our journey together. I believe that our relationships embody and carry with them the life and ministry of Christ Jesus, who came and dwelt among us in vulnerable human form and who offers his broken life as a way of peace and hope for all.
This is hardly mechanical, but sometimes it begins with a friendly reminder from my neighbourhood garage!
Rick Neufeld is Mennonite Church Manitoba’s area church minister.