Christian community, as in the Book of Acts, is build around one mind, one heart, and one spirit, in love. It is living in communion with God and others. Everything else comes out of that: it's purpose, goals, mission, ideals, charisms, spirituality etc.
Community will have its own rhythm, certain rule, charisms given to the founders. It will have certain feel, particular aspect of ministry and spirituality that will be elevated, a drive for concrete purpose. If you think it sound more like a religious order and less like a parish that you go to, you are exactly right.
Modern parish is still striving to accomplish what was set 2,000 years ago yet it fails on many fronts. It seems that modern parish in the US became a sacramental center not a community of believers that pray together daily, share all they possess, take care of all sick and needy among them, raise, train and send from their midst apostles and prophets. When parish lost its cultural appeal, the bare structure or what was left of it couldn't and can not sustain itself as a spiritual center or a community. Frantic scheduling of programs and frustration of lack of response is a daily bread for parish workers. People thinking that quick resolutions, weekly programs, occasional Bible studies, potlucks, social gatherings will draw crowds into Masses, religious education classes, etc. are shocked that so many people do not respond to the rhetoric of parish any more. Parishes can become communities but that requires a lot to change. St. John Paul II wanted each parish to become community of communities.
Community will require everything from you. You will have to sacrifice your time, energy and money. You will not be able to hide in your home whenever your want, if you are serious about community. You will discover and be confronted with your ghosts, skeletons, hurts as well as you will discover your potential, gifts, call and vocation. You will not be able to live as you wish for you will have to learn what real freedom is. You will have to confront every aspect of your life in the light of the Gospel. No one will control you, no one will force you, no one will demand anything from you. But you will be compelled, for the love of Christ, to revolutionize your ideas about life, reorder your priorities, and you will have to die many deaths to enter into communion with God and others and sustain those relationships, not run from them each time you want.
You can not build a community without living in close approximation. Community has many aspects of family life. You do not chose your family members, you live with them. Especially those you naturally initially dislike will be the instruments of chiseling of your heart and character. You will also find people who will enormously inspire you, draw you closer to God, you will discover depths of human interactions that you thought are not possible. You will go beyond formal, surface and weekend relationships, and you will see, sooner or later, the beautiful and the ugly of most of your community members. And you will understand that we need each other to start living on earth as in heaven now.
So Christian lay community, which can include religious, priests and lay people, will have a governing body, structure, vision, goals, mission, formation, discipline, accountability, vision, spirituality.
In our pragmatic world focusing on success what we usually ask is 'but what do you do?' asking also about Christian community. People may see that certain community is helping immigrants, or orphanages, or making retreats for confirmation kids, or presenting evangelization drama or leading praise and worship and music during certain events or running a soup kitchen but what they see is only the action of community, it's the same when we see Trappists making caskets or brewing beer, thinking this is their main occupation that improves and aids society. But we chose communal life first so we can belong not so we can do things together. Doing flows from being. In a community we verbalize our bonding in Christ, and our doing is secondary although it brings much good to common humanity. In a community we accentuate caring above accomplishing. In a community we give each other space to heal and grow. We are not offended neither distracted by it, we welcome inconveniences connected to it and we try to carry each other burdens by more than weekly phone call. We walk in brokenness together, covering each others' wounds and releasing healed hearts and bodies. In community we learn to forgive for we have to be forgiven much and often. We do not live in offense or disconnection because of someone's political different opinion, we do not carry the offense but we dig in to discovering the reasons for it. We want to understand and be open. To be seen as effective and productive is not the primary concern of a community for we understand that becoming like Christ takes long time. We decide to give ourselves and others enough time to grow. In a community we learn to trust and how to become trustworthy. In a community we receive new heart and a new spirit to soar. In a community we learn how to live in a biblical covenant and true personal freedom.
There are hundreds of Catholic lay communities around the world. Ecclesial movements, local communities, base communities, small Christian communities, houses where lay celibate and religious live together. Some communities can be as small as several people, especially if they live together, and some can have several hundreds people in them, sometimes multiplying itself in different locations. Hundreds of thousands of people in Catholic lay communities pray, serve, grow, give and receive, train, impact their surrounding daily. It is still the most invisible force that continues the presence and work of Christ in many lands, regions, countries and without them there is no future for a vibrant, impacting, holy Church to survive current challenges.
This is a repost from MajorChange Fb Group thread, it has been reposted in its original form.