Friday, November 3, 2023

A Sense of Community

So here we are, the end of Halloweek, and we've talked about engaging the world without entertaining it at a time when the world is more open than it is on any other day of the year. We've talked about the history of Halloween and how, for centuries, it was a sacred day (and in many circles, still is). And we've talked about how the world fell in love with the church's evolving model of engagement and came to copy us in the now-popular "Trunk or Treat" events. 

But there's one more thing. 

Because the world doesn't Trunk or Treat the way that we do, and we have to be mindful of that. 

What the church is really good at - or what the church should be really good at - is fellowship. That sense of community. That togetherness. In fact, that's been the hallmark of our Trunk or Treats (and "harvest festivals" for decades. It's about being together, worshiping, having fun. We have always made the fellowship central to what we are doing. 

The world...doesn't have fellowship at heart. It doesn't have neighborliness at heart. In fact, the world's events are largely void of this. 

When the world puts on a Trunk or Treat, it's really only the participants who have any sense of fellowship and only to the extent that they are putting it on together. Everyone who comes by is coming just to pass through and not really make connections. You can walk through an entire trunk or treat and not speak to another single individual, not let your kids stop to mingle, not make eye contact with anyone, not run into anyone you know. You can go to this "community" event and not have any sense of actual community at all. It's simply not required.

This is what the world is really good at. It's something we could really call "optimization." The world took our model, emphasized what it thought was important about it, threw everything else away, and established a new tradition that optimized productivity. For families who want to get a lot of candy with no work, it's great. 

But it's no community. 

And more than that, these trunk or treats actually take away from community that already existed. We talked about how open the world is on Halloween and how you can knock on your neighbor's door and chat even if you don't really talk to one another normally or you've never met until now. There's just something about it. 

As Trunk or Treat becomes more popular, however, fewer and fewer families go out in their neighborhoods. They've attended so many compact, optimized Trunk or Treat events in preparation for Halloween that they don't need any more candy, they don't want to go out in the weather, and they certainly don't want to walk around and exert the physical effort that traditional trick-or-treating requires. The kids have already had their Halloween experience with decorated booths or cars or whatever the setup is; they don't need any more of it. 

The world's Trunk or Treat is making the neighborhood obsolete on its most open day of the year. 

And that's not a good thing. 

That's why the church can't just let the world have this one. We can't just rejoice that the world has taken our model. Because it's not really our model. The world corrupted it and took out all the best parts. So we have to keep pushing and have to keep doing it the way we do it. What we have to offer is so much richer, so much more wonderful. We can never lose sight of that. 

Anyway...something to think about in the next 363 days.  

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