Community in a World Divided

Pastor Mitch McDonald, Sun Lakes Community Church

In April the front page of the Splash highlighted a musical that the Jewish congregation put on for the community called A Deli Line. It was a grand success that featured great fun for all in attendance. What couldn’t be seen on the front page of the paper, though, is a unique chemistry that has been developing over the last several months. You didn’t read about the invitation that was extended to the clergy from across the Sun Lakes community to be a part of this musical. In fact, as I start this next sentence, it reads like a bad joke. A Baptist preacher, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, a Methodist reverend, and a Church of Christ pastor put religious differences aside to celebrate community. Understand that this did not happen by accident, but through great intentionality of spiritual leaders throughout our community, there has risen up an organic sense of the need and the reality for people of faith to come together.

There is no question that Oct. 7 shook the spiritual community to the core. And for many communities, it became a divisive factor. Religious dogmas drove people apart instead of gathering them together. But something unique is taking place in the Sun Lakes community. That uniqueness comes from a realization that, as human beings, we have more in common than we are willing to admit, including the need for community, the need for belonging, the need for purpose, the need for dignity, and the fact that we all long to feel like we are significant in the world in which we live.

At the first of the year, religious leaders from across our community began a course in addressing many of these needs. On Jan. 14 clergy from all across Sun Lakes faith groups gathered for a panel discussion addressing loneliness within the senior adult community. This has led to a follow-up session open to all on June 6 about how we can specifically address loneliness within the community and within the church, but it didn’t stop there. Congregations have made a commitment that on the second Friday night of every month, many gather on the patio of the Sun Lakes Chapel for no purpose other than to encourage those within the Jewish faith who have come to worship to greet them with a smile and a handshake. During Holy Week, congregations jointly came together as Rabbi Wiener illustrated the Biblical significance of the Seder meal, and then to gather in a garden setting on Maundy Thursday as Christians to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice. And, finally, on April 7 a spring picnic was hosted by the Lutheran congregation for all to come.

Again, in our world that is so divided by race, political preferences, and religious dogmas, we still can celebrate community. We can still treat others with respect. We can still show kindness to those around us. I for one am blessed to live in a community where differences do exist, but community is strong. Oh that we would strive to live in peace with each other. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and professor, once said, “Community is where humanity and glory touch.” It’s my prayer that we will experience such community in the days ahead.