Category: Love - Anna S. Christie, B.A., M.Div., RCC
If I'm going to write a book about communities of love, defining love will be important. It's problematic that we only have one word in English for a number of concepts. Reminds me of the old joke: a man says to his psychiatrist "I really need help doctor. My problem is....I love pancakes."

And the psychiatrist says "Well that's not a problem. I love pancakes too!"

"Really?" says the man. "That's great! Cuz I have trunks and trunks full of them!"

Love is so many things. Wikipedia, quoting both Oxford and Miriam-Webster dictionaries says this about love in the first paragraph: "Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and 'the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another'."  That's not bad. I was expecting something stupid when I went there looking, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

My favourite definition of Love, which I wrote of extensively in Evoking Change, and identified with the capital letter "L" whenever I used it, is by the late Dr. Scott M. Peck: "Love is the willingness to extend oneself for another's (or one's own) spiritual growth." It's my favourite because I like the part about growing spiritually. I suppose that's another concept that needs to be defined though.

Jesus was famous in his own time on earth for one thing: preaching about love. Or Love. In fact he reduced the whole Law and the Prophets to one line from Leviticus: "Love your neighbour as yourself." Of course some smartass lawyer had to stand up and ask "who is my neighbour" prompting Jesus to become more obscure, as he was wont to do, in the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. One thing is clear in the parable, however, and that is that the one who loved the hurting man was the one who helped him, bound his wounds, and put him up in a hotel to heal. Jesus thus defines love (in this instance) as compassion, kindness, affection.

Unfortunately in the church people often think "love your neighbour" means "be nice to people." No matter what they do. Even if they set out to sabotage the minister and destroy the church. Love is not "niceness" - that is something else. It's niceness. Love involves truth-telling, for shielding someone from the natural consequences of their behavior is not love, it's cruelty.

How do you define love as it would apply to faith communities? Jesus commanded us to "Love one another as I have loved you." How did Jesus love the disciples he

I made a resolution in 2012 to write a book for congregations and clergy. The working title is "Communities of Love." I would like to create a book that can be studied by Boards, Committees as well as groups of clergy, so it's important to me that it's written in a style that is easily accessible for laypeople. I will also include study questions at the end of each chapter. The theme of the book will be how to create a community in this post-modern era, in the mainline church, that focuses not on growth but on being truly loving as Christ commanded.

Most congregations think they are loving because they are all friends and love one another. Some even go so far as to be loving toward the stranger - the homeless person, the transgendered person, the new immigrant. But after 30 years in the pulpit and 35 years as a presbytery member, I have seen some of the most unloving behavior on the planet. Most of it is directed toward clergy or paid staff, but some of it toward people within the faith community who are on a different side of an issue.

I would really love for my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn communities as well as anyone else to engage in some conversation here. I would like to hear your stories. The good and the bad. Tell me about faith communities you've worked in that were truly loving!

Here is the outline of the book at this early stage, and a few roughed-out ideas. Tell me what you think, and if I'm missing anything.

  1. LOVE - defined; Scripture-base; that Jesus guy; truth-telling; chronic "niceness";
  2. DECISION-MAKING - Spiritual discernment/World Cafe vs. Parliamentary process
  3. GOVERNANCE - models for a postmodern church
  4. PASTORAL CARE - Frameworks; Small Groups; Lay teams; Training; Emergencies
  5. CLERGY & STAFF - How does the community treat the people who challenge them?
  6. PREACHING & WORSHIP - Is preaching passe?; worship wars; worship's goal.
  9. CONFLICT RESOLUTION - strategies & frameworks
  10. LIFE-LONG LEARNING - leadership development, theological reflection, Bible study, spiritual growth.
  11. WELCOMING - who and how do we welcome others into our communities?
  12. CHARITY & SOCIAL JUSTICE - missional churches; looking outward; social club to social justice