Creating Community (by Jenn Richards)
On a dark and rainy evening in November, I venture out into the dreariness for our bi-weekly neighbourhood pub night. I wonder to myself how many brave souls will be joining me on this particular evening. As I climb the stairs to the second floor of the restaurant, I am immediately met by three individuals, all in their 20s. They are all first-timers who have found out about the gathering from an online posting. We greet each other and sit down. From there, ten others slowly trickle in. We sit at long wooden tables with vast windows behind us that display the lights of downtown Vancouver in all its glory. We order drinks and food and slowly this everyday space becomes holy ground.
We started these pub nights in September. They stem from a desire to build community in a neighbourhood that is built for isolation. Every single time we’ve met I have wondered beforehand if the Spirit will show up and what we will do if He doesn’t, and yet every single time He does. My prayer for these nights is that people will come and be seen, be heard, and be valued. In a neighbourhood that is condo building after condo building, where everyone is just another face in the grocery store line or another person sitting next to them at Starbucks, the loneliness and feeling of being invisible can be suffocating. Our desire is to show a different way, a Kingdom way. This is a night where everyone is welcome, where you are seen for who you are. Here there is laughter, follow-up questions, and connection.
These are high hopes to have on a single evening and yet we choose to hope for more than what is humanly possible. I’ve learned quickly from these nights that yes, the Spirit always shows up, but He rarely shows up in the way I want Him to. The part of me that craves power is totally unimpressed by this. Why can’t God simply do things my way for once? These pub nights become holy ground because I do not do them by myself. They are truly the essence of the Body of Christ at work in all her messy glory. Time and time again this fall I have been humbled and grateful to realize that I am part of a tribe that shows up. Life Church gets off the couch on a rainy dark evening and stretches herself to talk to the stranger. She attends to both friends and newcomers. She is the Church in Olympic Village.
Every time we do one of these events there is a time in the evening when there’s a lull in my particular conversation and the Spirit prompts me to look up. I look around the room and my heart swells as I see my friends talking, laughing, and asking great questions to people they often just met that very same evening. I know that for some of them this is hugely draining and completely out of their comfort zone and yet they come and do what they can. Where we are lacking, the Spirit always supplies the rest. I see my friends, my church family, my tribe being Jesus. At some point in the evening a newcomer always asks me “how do you know each other?” because it’s obvious that some of us are connected. This is always my favourite question, because without any hesitation and with a glimmer of pride in my voice I say “we go to the same church”. They are my people, my community, and my friends. They are my church and together we are the Church.