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Written by Gradye Parsons

Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.

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May 1, 2012

The gift of community

The following is an account popular in the storytelling world and passed along in William White’s Stories for the Journey (Augsburg Press, 1988).

People in a remote village purchased a television set. For weeks, all of the children and all of the adults gathered around the set morning, afternoon, and night watching the programs. After a couple of months, the set was turned off and never used again.

A visitor to the village asked the chief, “Why do you no longer watch television?”

“We have decided to listen to the storytellers,” he replied.

“Doesn’t the television know more stories?” the visitor asked.

“Yes,” the chief replied, “but the storyteller knows me.”

In the Confession of 1967, we say “The new life takes shape in a community in which men [and women] know that God loves and accepts them in spite of what they are” (9.22).

How do we know God loves us? Yes, we have God’s Word in the Bible. We have the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised for us. We also have the Holy Spirit working in us. But the reality of God’s love given through real humans to us is another powerful agent of how we experience our new life in Christ. It means something profound that John or Jane at our church knows our story and loves us just as we are.

The faith community is a gift – those special moments of closeness at Font and Table … the missional sweat equity of working together in disaster relief … the sacred space of folks saying their prayer requests. These are tangible, touchable, tender acts of a group of individual sisters and brothers in Christ becoming a community. In becoming that community, they are transformed into something much more than just their collective numbers.

Look about you the next time you sit in the sanctuary. Most likely, those people know your story, good and bad, and they love you still. That is a gift that should evoke an amen and an alleluia.

Tags: community, gradye parsons, monthly column, stated clerk, storytelling