Last weekend I partnered with Christ Episcopal Church and Second Baptist Church to lead a group of twelve hikers on a three-day, 25-mile trek on the Buffalo River Trail. The theme was “Hiking with C.S. Lewis,” drawing on the revered Anglican thinker’s wisdom as a prompt for discussion and reflection around the fire each evening. Our multi-generational group of disciples shared much over the weekend. For some this was a new experience, having never put up a tent before or felt the dull ache in the shoulders from hauling a heavy pack up and down the contours of the Ozark Mountains. On the second night, we stood in awe at the sight of the Milky Way spread out above us, and on Sunday afternoon, in between friendly rock-skipping contests, we celebrated the Eucharist together on the banks of the Buffalo. The trail worked its magic, revealing God in one another and in the natural world we journeyed through.
One of the ideas this trip brings to mind for me is the necessity of creating a catalyst for community connection. As churchgoers, we all agree that building a relationship with our neighbors is important, but it helps to have a reason to cross paths in our daily life to discover “that our common life depends upon each other’s toil,” as a collect in the Book of Common Prayer reminds us. Where are the literal/proverbial intersections within our neighborhoods? Where is the common watering hole? How can the congregation across town provide something for our congregation that we couldn’t do on our own, and vice versa? I’d like to see us begin to get creative about finding ways to more overtly meet each other’s basic needs.
By the end of day three on the Buffalo River Trail, the twelve of us were acquainted in ways that months of post-worship coffee hour conversations couldn’t have allowed. We had to fetch water for one another, lend a hand with setting up shelters, offer encouragement when we were physically exhausted, and pace ourselves in order to stay together. As a result of relying on one another, we came to know one another. How can we do that in our communities?
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