A community that had love

October 23, 2011

church / life

It’s been a week now since our dear Neighbors Abbey “officially” ended. Kiera and I were part of this faith community for the last couple of years, and recently the circumstances of many folks involved with it made it such that it couldn’t continue in the capacity that it had, and so it ended as an official church.

Now, we’ve been through the endings of churches that we loved before. In the past, they’ve been terrible endings. They’ve been over serious theological issues, or serious personal issues, or a combination of those things. We have been hurt, or we’ve seen people that we loved be hurt, or we’ve felt we couldn’t continue in the directions that things were going.

But Neighbors Abbey, at least for us and as far as we know for others, didn’t end like this. No one appears to be bitter. No one appears to feel like his or her face was kicked in. It seems like we all view it as a lovely season that has ended. A death has occurred. It needs to be mourned, but the beautiful thing for me is that there is much to be mourned and much to be celebrated.

Some context: Neighbors Abbey was an Emergent community. One of a few that have existed in Atlanta. For most of its existence it met in houses in Southwest Atlanta, though toward the end it rented a small space at a nonprofit in that part of the city. That part of the city has been long forgotten, and has its issues with sex and drug trafficking, violence, and so on. But many in our community live there and love there, engaging in various acts of justice, and it has always helped us to be involved there as we could, even though we live in a different part of the city.

Anyway, we had a celebratory service last Sunday. We were asked to think about things we could remember, things we could grieve, and things we could imagine for the future. I felt kind of numb during that time. Not really sure what to think.

But then, we did our weekly communion. We’ve always done communion as a weekly thing. It helped create a community that was centered around sharing a table (communion, followed by a meal) with each other and with Jesus, and it was fantastic. But often, and last Sunday was like this, we sang a simple song as we did it. It goes like this:

Love, love, love, love, love (repeat)
I will show you a more excellent way (repeat, and then harmonize with the first line)
I’m just a noise; I’m a lost cymbal. I gain nothing if I do not have love. (sing once, then harmonize with the first two lines)

So there it is. Three verses, with folks singing them in harmony. It was a great way to mark things on a weekly basis.

But last Sunday, as we sang it for the last time as Neighbors Abbey, I was overcome. I don’t cry much. When I do, it normally is the Spirit of God doing something. And this was one of those times. I was no longer numb. No longer was it hard to think of what to mark from this season of our lives.

Neighbors Abbey had love.

From the beginning to the end, through all of the transitions, possible transitions, dreams we attempted and things we failed to do, we had love. The love of God was there, and our community loved one another and any who came to join us. And that’s a deep, abiding, and beautiful something to be remembered and celebrated.