Building community

Posted Jul 16, 2014 | The Discipleship Project


By Reuben Sancken

Reuben SanckenI'm very grateful for this gift of The Discipleship Project (TDP). Not only has it given me the opportunity to leave seminary with no additional student debt, but it has also provided me a chance to develop community with a diverse group of people. When I was accepted into TDP, I was in the midst of living in an intentional community in Minneapolis, MN. We shared our resources and intentionally worked on how to build community. So, when I was told that building community would be a component of TDP, I expected that we would all be living together in community.

When I moved to Indianapolis, I discovered that half the members of my TDP cohort did not live in the housing provided by Christian Theological Seminary (CTS). Half the group found they couldn't move into the community because of various important circumstances in their lives. Having half the cohort living in CTS housing created a challenge to building community. How does community develop when half the group does not have the experience of living in the same place?

Building community can also be a challenge with a group of people from diverse backgrounds. We have people of different racial, cultural, denominational, and theological backgrounds. Our community also includes people of different personalities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and different understandings of Jesus. With people of different passions and understandings, it can be challenging to make decisions and create real relationships. Why does God create diversity in community when it can create so many challenges?

I believe God created diversity in community because God values it. According to the Gospels, Jesus welcomes people from diverse backgrounds and professions to follow him. Many of Jesus' followers were those he healed from illnesses, those from marginalized groups, but also tax collectors, fish catchers, and others. There are many reasons I think that God values diversity, but one in particular is that in a diverse community we are challenged to look beyond our individual beliefs and understandings and see that there is so much more to the world and the universe.

How do we build community in TDP? Through weekly meetings in which we take turns leading devotionals using our different styles of worship and ways of connecting with God. Our group discusses the stresses of balancing school work, ministry, and other aspects of our lives. Together, we celebrate the good things happening in our lives, and we mourn the departure of several members of our TDP cohort who are leaving for various reasons. As my TDP cohort works toward the future, we will explore what community will be like without several of our members and what things we might like to do together as a community.

Community is often a challenge. If we move toward the future together with openness, desire, and commitment to make community work, then we can continue to build and nurture it. 

Reuben Sancken is a Master of Divinity student and a member of the second TDP cohort. This summer he is actively exploring chaplaincy by doing Clinical Pastoral Education at a local hospital. He is active in Affinity, CTS's LGBT and ally student group.

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