Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Risks of Community

About a week and a half-ago our community learned that a painting had been stolen from Ed's No Name Bar.  Ed Hoffman, the bar owner, first posted the news on the bar's Facebook page and then slowly it was shared wider as the local news outlets picked it up.

Now, I try to go to Ed's every Thursday night that my schedule allows because I have found that the people there are genuine, real, and the music is great.  The atmosphere is one that I enjoy because of Ed's love and support of the arts.  So it isn't a surprise that to have a painting stolen would be heart-breaking and very saddening to Ed and the community that enjoys the bar.

One particular paragraph that Ed wrote has stuck in my mind and I have been thinking about it ever since:
I have been open and offering free gallery space to regional artists for 3 years now and never has any one damaged or stolen a painting or work of art. I have always felt comfortable hanging my own work here. I volunteer and support local art in every way that time allows. I let my guard down and who ever did this made a fool of me. Personally, I am embarrassed that this happened, and have not gotten much sleep as my mind races about who, on a slowish night when I was familiar with most if not all of the people in the pub, would do such a thing.
Ed writing communicates the pain and anguish he felt (feels) over this loss, not only for him but the loss for the artist.  I have been thinking about that emotion for over a week and trying to understand it within the context of the community I am called to serve, the faith community.

What caught my attention the most was the fact that on the night when it disappeared Ed "was familiar with most if not all of the people in the pub."  It seems to me that this fact is what makes the situation hurt even more.  It doesn't seem that it is just a "random" person, but rather someone who knows Ed and therefore would know why Ed's is the way it is with the infusion of art and music in the atmosphere.  The hurt is magnified because it is possibly someone known by Ed, but also because it dealt with damaging the very source of passion for Ed.

I admire the way Ed reacted to the situation: he shared the hurt caused with the larger Winona community and asked for help, but just as importantly he didn't let this instance of violation stop him from continuing to share art at the pub.  That can be a hard thing to do, when we get hurt as people the usual reaction is to want to put up walls of protection to ensure it never happens again.  It would be understandable if Ed had decided to stop sharing art because of this instance, but I admire him for not doing that and I think that is something that people within faith communities could learn from.

Those who enter into a faith community, or any community for that matter, open themselves up to risk.  Any relationship brings with it inherent risks and loss of control because we cannot control another person's decisions and that can bring hurt.  In faith communities we open up our lives and everything that goes with it to other people.  We become vulnerable by sharing our joys, our hurts, our passions, etc. because we believe that God has called us to be unified.

But guess what: people are broken and that means that faith communities are no exception to people getting hurt.  As someone who has been called to serve a faith community, this means that I open myself up to hurt also.  If people disagree with me that sometimes means that people will attack me or badmouth me within the community.  The fact is this happens whether you are a leader or just a regular member of the faith community and when that happens it hurts and people react to that hurt differently.  Some people react by doing the same thing to the other person.  Some people react by leaving the community to ensure they never get hurt like that again.  Still, some people stay in the community confront the hurt by bringing it into the open and grow from the experience.

It is this third reaction that I believe we are called to live into as members of a faith community.  The first reaction, to get revenge, does nothing more than multiply the pain.  The second reaction protects the person who is hurt, but in some ways I think it helps neither the individual hurt nor the community.  The individual never confronts the hurt and therefore will enter any new situation without healing and with their guards up to protect them.  The community loses out because they no longer are able to experience the gifts that the hurt individual brings to the community.  The third reaction deals with the hurt, confronts the wrong that was done and moves towards healing.  The individual is able to heal and grow, the community continues to experience the gifts the hurt individual brings to the community, and hopefully the one who caused the hurt realizes their own brokenness and is able to make amends and change so that they don't hurt others in the same way.

As I reflected I couldn't help but believe that Ed responded the way that I believe members of our faith communities should when we are hurt also.  We don't stop being who we are and sharing those things that make us who we are, but instead we confront the wrong and work towards healing and through that trust that the entire community is able to grow.

1 comment:

  1. Justin - Thanks for sharing this. There has been much talk about hurt in the church recently and I think it is a good conversation to have, especially because so many people today do feel "hurt" by the church in some way. Specifically I'm thinking about the new Barna book ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God by Stephen Mansfield and can be found here. But practically, I'm thinking of the retreat we're about to attend.

    We all have to realize that we're jerks sometimes. It's part of being fallen/sinful/not whole. I'll be the first to admit that. But we also need the healing you recommend (in community). In fact, that is the only path to wholeness in God is seeking the redemptive healing of Christ.

    Peace to all of us as we journey on that road.