“Real change comes from an awareness of our deep connectedness.” Alan Briskin, et. al.
For some time now I have been reflecting on "community" and what it means in the context of the associate-religious relationship. More recently, I have started to ponder the gift the associate way of life has to offer to our world today. Although I have no concrete evidence, I believe the associate way of life has the potential to offer our world the experience of belonging through our commitment to community.
Certainly, the word “community” is confusing. It can be defined as a place or juridical entity (city, neighborhood, congregation, house, etc.) and as “an experience of connectedness.” Peter Block defines community as "the experience of belonging." He writes that "we are in community each time we find a place where we belong. ... community calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence.” When I talk with people interested in Association, they frequently identify the desire to belong as one of the reasons for exploring this form of relationship.
Various authors identify common characteristics of healthy and sustainable community, including sharing our stories; sharing our unique gifts; embracing gratitude and grace as a way of life; celebrating together; making commitments; being accountable; supporting one another; welcoming the stranger; and working together for a better world.
The associate-religious relationship seems to be the perfect springboard to take up Sr. Carol Zinn’s call to “broaden our commitment to community beyond our wildest imagination….” As Associates we have the opportunity to faithfully live a commitment to community as an experience of connectedness. In doing so, we provide a powerful witness (and welcome) in a world that is increasingly individualistic and adverse to commitment. How can we share this grace with others? Let our imaginations soar!
The newsest section of Lead with the Spirit: A Manual for Associate Leadership is now available! This section of the manual will help those who direct the process with information about adult faith formation, ideas for individual journeys and group experiences and three appendices of resources.