Hi friends! I’ve been bad about updating this blog, but it’s because there’s been a ton of fun things going on, and that’s a good thing, right? Over the past month or so, I’ve been living at the Collegium Oecumenicum in Munich and it’s been great! One thing I’ve really been thinking about is community. Here, I live with about 50 other students from all over the world. I share a floor with others, which means that I share bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room with other people. Some people might shirk at the idea of living together and having to share with others, but I actually think it’s a great thing that everyone should do – at least once! And, for the record, this is my second round of living in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG – or, “flat-sharing community”).
So now you may be wondering why I would want to live like this, right? Well, I can sum it up in one word: community. Here at the Collegium, we have the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch in the large dining hall, or we can cook in the kitchens found on each of the floors. In doing so, it means that we often run into others who are in the dining hall or in the kitchen at the same time. This leads to fun conversations, or to making plans to go out and do things in the city or the surrounding area, or to delicious community meals. Last night, for example, many of us pooled our resources to make a huge dinner of salad, bread, pasta, and homemade tomato sauce (yes, bread and pasta – I think we were carbo-loading!). All shared what they had and helped with the cooking and cleaning. It was a blast and we had plenty of food to left over for today. It was truly beautiful because everything was freely shared and enjoyed.
And this is not the only time in my life I’ve experienced this. People here and in Freiburg, where I studied before, – poor students, mind you! – have been so generous with what they have. When I think about this, I think of the wealth we have in the States (and in a large part of the developed world in general) and the fact that it seems the more wealth we have, the more people seem to clench their fists tightly around what they have. “This is mine…,” we say (myself included), and we insinuate that these possessions will not change hands any time soon.
I’ve also been struck by how the members of this community support one another. I was quite nervous a few weeks ago because I had an important interview, but my roommates stepped up and listened to me, later asking how everything had gone and rejoicing with me when things went well. People really paid attention and cared about what was going on in my life. This is also something I’ve experienced in the community at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and within various church communities. It makes such a difference to know that people are really looking after you – that they are listening to you, praying for/with you, and that they follow up with you.
This particular community at the Collegium is also drawn together by our mutual belief in Jesus Christ and I’m really enjoying my experience here. I find it exciting and refreshing that people invite others to attend church services of various flavors and that faith is something that is openly discussed here. In an increasingly secular country (32-37% do not profess a religion), I find a great deal of hope in the students gathered here who explore and struggle with faith together. We’re a community of people that gather together from various backgrounds in worship, confessing our faith together in the Apostle’s Creed and praying the Lord’s Prayer together. These confessions and prayers happen in whatever language people choose and many have remarked how fascinating it is that, somehow, we all begin and end together when we speak, even if we’re not using the same language. We’re a people who break bread and share wine together, both in the Eucharist and in every day meals.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having my own personal space, but there is something truly wonderful about living together in community. It’s not always easy or perfect, but there’s a holiness or a sacredness that happens in community when people come together in spite of their differences. Communities challenge and stretch us – they force us to examine ourselves and how we interact with others. And besides, the Trinity, is, after all, a community, isn’t it?
So my question here is how can we intentionally build community where we are? We may not live in a WG (“flat-sharing community”), but we can still work at building these communities in our churches and in our neighborhoods. Maybe the foundations have already been laid and there only needs to be a critical mass of people who are willing to commit to spending time together, listening to and caring for one another, or working together to transform the local neighborhood. The church should be a natural place to start, but if community is lacking, how can you help to foster change? What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them!
For me, though, it’s late…and I don’t want to miss the morning breakfast with everyone!
© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.