Guest Post Wednesday: The Muck of Community

This week’s guest post was written by John Reitz, who serves as the pastor of The Grantham Church, a Brethren in Christ congregation in central Pennsylvania. In a recent sermon on community–which was dutifully forwarded to me by my parents, as are all things having to do with “community”–Pastor John told a story that bears repeating. So, of course, I asked him to repeat it here for the readers of Texas Schmexas. Enjoy!

Sometimes you learn things in the strangest of places.

Lindensfarne is a tidal island just off the coast of northern England.  A few years ago I made my own pilgrimage to the island and while there I walked the pilgrim way.  Let me explain.

Lindensfarne is cut off from the mainland when the tide is in.  At that point you see the mainland and then across a mass of water is the island.  When the tide is out, it is possible to walk across the muck from the mainland to the island (thus the pilgrim’s way).

It’s in the muck that I was reminded of a central truth of community.

You see, when the tide is in, the island and the mainland look like two distinct bodies of land.  However, when you walk the pilgrim’s way you realize that the two are connected.  As I walked in the muck of the tidal base, I was reminded that we are connected with one another.  Often our differences stand out when the waters divide us but take away the water and you see the connection.

Actually, all land is connected if you go deep enough.

The other lesson I picked up along the way is that our connection is usually found in the muck of life but we tend not to want to own up to this essential truth.

As I walked the two miles in bare feet and gathered slime and mud on my feet, I pondered the reality that I have more in common with every other human being than I have not in common with every other person.  I was reminded that Henri Nouwen warned that the word community has become associated with sentimentalism, romanticism, and even melancholy.

In reality in order to experience community, you often have to get your feet dirty.

Our separateness stands out when the tide is in but we are more connected than we think.

No man is an island entire of itself; 
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; 
any man’s death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know 
for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
-John Donne (Meditation XVII)

The next time you notice how different you are from another person – pause and think of Lindensfarne.

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6 comments on “Guest Post Wednesday: The Muck of Community

  1. Anne Rose says:

    I really am enjoying your posts!

  2. Olivia says:

    “In reality in order to experience community, you often have to get your feet dirty.”

    So very true…but it is very much worth it. 😉

  3. Elaine says:

    I just completed teaching John Donne, and discussing community and interconnection. I read these remarks to my class this morning, and tomorrow, we go out into the community for a day of service. I stressed our connection to those whom we will serve. Thanks for your addition to my classroom through your thoughts!

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