At the start of a new academic year you often find that one topic comes up more than others: something to set a new school group into motion and gel them together. It is of course 'community'. It is a word which for many, I'm sure, has its own meaning or perhaps conjures different thoughts of people and places.
Like I said, it is a theme that crops up a lot at the start of a school year. We spend days, weeks even, thinking about what it means to be a community with the new Year 7 pupils that come to spend time with us at Animate.
We'll do a day filled with teamwork activities to highlight the value of those around us; to emphasise how all of our gifts and talents – each of them unique to an individual like no other – are integral parts of the building blocks that form our communities. This fits with Saint Paul's message to the people of Ephesus, Rome and Corinth; a message so important that Paul dedicated much of his later life to spreading it to the people.
This message certainly isn't just for the Year 7s who visit Animate every September; nor should it be the sole preserve of schools.
St Paul used many analogies for the community we all belong to as Christians. There is the image of the body of Christ, with each part exactly where it is needed to be; or the holy temple of God, with every person a constituent brick. In Ephesians 2:20-22 Paul says the following: 'You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.'
How many times have we sat in church or at another community event thinking, 'I could do that better' or 'I wouldn't do it like that' or even 'why is (s)he involved'.
So often we fail to see the community we belong to for all it could be. We don't recognise the unwavering commitment that our counterparts offer despite maybe not having the same skills as ourselves; rather we condemn them for not reaching the standards we impose. Yet each one of these people is just as important as the other – and as ourselves. We can all imagine a picture-perfect church community in which everyone plays their part and pitches in wherever possible. Well, that picture-perfect community isn't really that far away once we begin to respect our own roles and those of the others around us. When we encourage and uplift our peers, then surely we will become that functioning welcoming community that people will want to be part of.