The Joy of Fellowship



By Suma Varughese

November 2005

A real community is an inclusive, accepting space in which love and intimacy flourish and healing and growth happen. Such a community is a profound joy.


My first experience of the value of community happened when I was around 28. My father had been diagnosed with cerebral haemorrhage and had been admitted to a hospital in Vishakapatnam. Among us six sisters, only one lived near my parents. The rest were scattered all over India, and although we rushed to their aid, others had got there first. The entire Syrian Christian community had risen up as one and ministered to my parents. One of them was an intern at the hospital and I recall with gratitude that he took care of my father as tenderly as if he had been his own. The women would drop in with tempting little morsels in wire baskets; one or the other of the church members would help us to liaison with the doctors and to run errands. Most of all, they gave us moral support and the sense that we were not alone in this. I, who was then an agnostic and non-churchgoer, was humbled by the wave of love and care that and supported us in our hour of need. Since then, I have never questioned the value of the church as a community.

 

In his book, The Different Drum, writer and psychiatrist Dr M. Scott Peck describes an intense community experience while participating in a T-group process. He writes, ‘We were a very diverse group of people, we sixteen. The first three days were spent in intense struggle. It was not boring. But it was often anxious, often unpleasant, and there was much anger expressed, at times almost viciously. But on the fourth day something happened, and I remember the suddenness of the shift. Suddenly, we all cared for each other. Thereafter some cried and a couple wept. Much of the time I had tears in my eyes… For me they were tears of joy as I observed much healing taking place. We continued to have moments of struggle, but it was never again vicious… I knew that for this limited period we members loved one another, and the predominant thing I felt was joy.’

The Need for Community
Deep in our hearts each of us longs for community. The word itself has mystical connotations, reminiscent of communion and union. In truth, community is all that and more. Community is being part of a larger whole, a space in which by some miracle we and the other, or group of others, are so attuned to each other that we surge past our individual egos and differences to merge into a collective oversoul, an entity that is larger than ourselves. Through community we experience the fundamental truth of oneness; through community we discover the secret of living in love and harmony with the other; through community we fulfil our deep soul need for the other.

The truth is we need the other. In his relation to society the individual has two powerful and
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