Elly McKay-Smith, East Sussex Chaplain, shares her thoughts this week on the importance and power of community. Our team of volunteer Chaplains help the young people who live in our housing projects to feel heard, valued and accepted. Every week they make and share a meal with the young people living in our 24 hour supported housing projects as well as ensuring that they feel part of a wider community.
Amidst the third UK lockdown our usual sense of community may seem fractured or distant. Key workers working hard, but often on their own, while working from home can both be liberating and isolating and there may be a feeling of guilt that you are not ‘in the office’. Juggling home schooling and workloads, or the stress of taking your children to a very different ‘Key workers children only’ school, can bring further stress. While we all know it is for the best and that, God willing, this period might just be enough to keep our loved one safe until the vaccine can be rolled out, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Coming after a muted Christmas period it does rather feel this pandemic is never ending.
During the last year I started to study biblical Greek – I don’t know what possessed me, improving my English grammar may have been a better idea😊 – but it has been really fascinating unpacking the often-double meaning of words.
Koinonia (pronounced coin-ow-nia) is the Greek word for fellowship or community.
Fellowship is the rather old-fashioned phrase used by churches and faith groups for the communal time normally after a service. For me, fellowship conjurers up childhood memories of time spent drinking milky, lukewarm coffee and nibbling on slightly stale biscuits surrounded by people I regarded as family. Change the word to community and my thoughts change to better coffee, good conversation, sharing experiences and a sense of wellbeing and that family expands to include neighbours and friends.
We are all part of various communities, where we live, where we work, where we worship, where we study. Common threads pulling us together through shared experiences, making our life richer and offering opportunities to grow and flourish but also to help others on their journey through life.
It’s at times like these that the sense of community really comes into play, to witness the items being delivered into our properties in the run up to Christmas was a prime example of how people have stopped and thought about people around them, including those on the outskirts of their own personal community. It was both encouraging and humbling to help facilitate the Love in a Box scheme to our properties and to collect both essentials and luxury items from the Foodbank.
But as well as receiving community we also must give community.
Take time to check in with friends, colleagues and neighbours. Even if it’s just a smile or a wave through the window as you walk past. Pop something in the foodbank as you shop. Walk your neighbour’s dog if they are isolating. My neighbour scraped the ice off my car this morning as an act of kindness – I didn’t have the heart to say I was working from home.
So, whatever your situation, be the community and help spread the love as we start 2021.
Chaplaincy at YMCA DownsLink Group helps to make a difference to the lives of young people by providing a space to be heard. We are an inclusive Christian organisation and our staff and young people are from all faiths and none.
For more information on Chaplaincy visit: https://www.ymcadlg.org/get-involved/chaplaincy/