Building Community – Circles, Not Rows

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Building Community – Circles, Not Rows

By Jenny Wilson, Connect Editor

I read a line in a Christian book recently which talked about doing ‘life in circles, not in rows’, and it stopped me in my tracks.

It was speaking about the need for community within churches, not just sitting in rows on a Sunday morning, but about genuine, deep community around the meal table, the team table and seeing church as family where people really do know each other and care for each other.

That phrase, ‘life in circles, not in rows’, has stayed with me this week and I keep mulling it over. What does it mean for us as Christians to do life in circles and not in rows? Thinking about it, it’s quite difficult to be a community in a row! Ever tried to have a conversation with the person sitting four seats down the row from you (pre-covid)?

Circles are scary. Rows are linear, neat, tidy and predictable – circles (of people) are not! Have you ever been in a meeting where someone says, ‘why don’t we just put the chairs in an open circle’, and you inwardly groan!

Circles require openness and vulnerability. They remove the barrier, whether physical or metaphorical, between you and other people. Being in community requires us to be vulnerable with one another. It means I need to let my guard down a bit and so do you. It means as Christians putting away the pretense that life is always fine. It means ‘rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’ (Romans 12: 15) and journeying with one another through the highs and lows of life. That’s why small groups of Christians meeting for genuine fellowship is so important. No, we can’t really do that sitting in rows.

Circles can also be liberating and exciting! After the initial scariness comes freedom to be truly known and to really know and journey with others too. Circles can provide creativity, connectedness, conversation and a sense of cohesiveness. Isn’t that why we gather around a dining table whether it is circular or otherwise?

Circles should never become cliques. We need to be open to getting to know others within our churches and in the wider community too. We are called to be salt and light. What circles do we have in our communities that we could be salt and light to? Perhaps it’s your child’s football club or your Zumba class or colleagues at work?

So, should we ditch the rows in our church services? No, not yet anyway! Sometimes rows are simply practical. However, perhaps as we start to re-engage as church families again after this long difficult season of physical separation we could consider ways in which to incorporate more circles into our church life. Could we invite a few folks from church for a meal together and build community? Could our small groups do this? Could we become a more intentional family together, where we learn from those who are more mature in faith, and perhaps in years too, and where we look out for those who are just starting out in life and in faith?

Rows are too neat – let’s try having a ‘circle’ mindset!

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