In response to an invitation from Reba Place Fellowship and Plow Creek Fellowship, 240 people from more than 40 communities and congregations--including many involved in Sojourners' "Sharing the Sojourn" network--gathered October 1-3 for the Shalom Connections Conference in Evanston, Illinois. They discovered that the Holy Spirit is lighting new fires, causing new communities to blaze forth in amazing variety and vitality, while older communities are gathering strength after a decade of struggles.
The "me first" decade of the 1980s was very hard on community values, and many of the Christian communities born in the '60s and '70s did not survive it. Community federations, such as the Shalom Association in which Reba Place Fellowship had a leading role, have fallen away--but the relationships and commitments have persisted, giving birth to many second-generation missions and ministries. And now, as the conference demonstrated, new groups are again springing up.
A great diversity of communities attended the conference. Some, like the Bruderhof and Jubilee Partners, represent a life of common work, table, and purse. Others, like Patchwork Central or Voice of Calvary are intentional neighbors gathered around common ministries and worship. Still others like Mustard Seed in Madison, Wisconsin, find their place within larger congregations, clustered in small groups for study, mutual aid, and accountability.
Again and again the Shalom Connections Conference was moved together by Spirit-filled worship centered unapologetically on Jesus. Jesus is the one who calls us to community, just as he called his first disciples, to become a living demonstration of God's justice and healing power.