When Community Comes Apart

"And so the disciples returned to their own homes..." —John 20:10

Scent of cedar smoke and candle wax, a whiff of sage. All the years' struggles, hopes, and dreams gathered into a smell in the back of my mind, settling in among other images of our community's life together, now gone.

With fits and starts, faith and fear, laughter and confusion, we walked the path of Christian community together for five years, calling ourselves "Galilee Circle." Each former member has their own way to describe what happened: movement of the Spirit; the cycle of birth, death, rebirth; "murder"; cutting off artificial life-support systems; running out of gas. What God had brought together had now come asunder, and few guideposts lead the stumbling journey from this desolate outpost.

How do faithful followers of Jesus continue when a once-vibrant community experience comes to a grinding halt? We hadn't a clue. We promised ourselves we'd have a grand closing ritual, inviting all the friends and associates of our actions over the years to ritualize our ending. It hasn't happened. After hundreds of gatherings for Bible study, action planning, seasonal rituals, and potlucks, we haven't been able to do a single blessed thing together.

My own feelings have run the predictable gamut: anger, frustration, relief, freedom, sorrow, confusion, in no particular order. Remaining is an empty gnawing at the pit of my stomach, a terrible yearning for a new start, a call from Above to come together, to renew the discipleship adventure, to return once more to Galilee with a Word from a corpseless tomb.

But no call has come, or at least not been heard. Like a recent divorcee who believes in marriage but lacks a suitable partner, I wander through my days, missing a piece of myself. My God, why did you abandon us? Or did we abandon you? Or? The options seem endless, and without possible resolution. Onward we trod, every man and woman for themselves.

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Sojourners Magazine November 1994
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