As I transition from living at Worldview College of Intercultural Studies in Tasmania, back to life in Melbourne, I have found Sarah A. Lanier’s book “Foreign to familiar“, helpful for understanding the differences between these two places.
In my experience, transition is always hard. I deeply miss my friends, who became like family, the church community I belonged in and the purpose that came from studying. But until I read that book I did not realise how much I miss the culture of Worldview. Although located in what the author refers to as a “cold culture,” which is categorised as being task-orientated (vs a “hot culture” which is relationship-based), Worldview has many elements of a “hot culture“;
- Spontaneity is everywhere. For example, if you want to play a game of volleyball, you just post it on the group chat and see who turns up.
- Everyone is welcome. I can’t count the number of times I would be walking to the bins and someone would invite me into their home, conversation or game. The invitation was- come in and jump into our lives.
- And as a result, boundaries and life look very different.
For some, this culture of life is overwhelming, exhausting and at times can feel invasive. But I found I loved it- thrived in it. And when I needed space (generally on a Sunday afternoon) I’d go for a walk by myself or hide in my room.
In contrast, Melbourne culture is so different.
- It is fast-paced
- To get anywhere I have to drive
- And to organise a catch up with a friend, you set a time and date (sometimes a month in advance)
Consequently, I have been missing the joys of spontaneous deep fellowship. The kind that comes when you have time, space and a shared vision and are invited to be vulnerable.
At the start of the month, I was able to get away for a few days to visit friends from Worldview. It was such a blessing to spend a few days away experiencing that culture and style of life again. Stories were shared, laughs were had, and I went to bed feeling full. Full of life, joy and deep contentment.
I understand that Worldview is unique. For those of you who haven’t had the joy of living in the community, it’s the kind of unique that one might experience on a camp or mission trip. One that has all the feelings and experiences. Where you do life together- from cooking meals, to cleaning bathrooms and trips to the shops. Where you’re there long enough that people see the good and also the ugly.
And I’ve been wondering, how does one create the culture here? The culture that says, “you’re welcome as you are. Come, be and sit. Enjoy.” I don’t have all the answers yet, but I believe there is a deep longing in each of us to belong, to be welcomed and loved.
I believe that every person SHOULD be part of a community because belonging is important.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Because we were created for it.
After God made everything in the garden he states, “it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). Right back in the beginning, we are told that man is made for meaning and relationships. Before the curse of the fall- where everything went wrong- we were made to be in relationships with one another- and that is still true today.
The author of Hebrews tells us, not to give “up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb 10:25). Instead, we are to be encouraging one another as “the Day” is approaching.
- It’s fun!!
Doing life together is fun! Sure, it hard and challenging and conflict is bound to happen (I’ll talk about that next), but it is also in the context of community- of belonging- that memories are made and shared. I have thousands of photos from the eighteen months I lived in Tasmania and even more memories from that time. We did holidays and day trips together, as well as had meals together and did simple things like walking to the post office. The mundane and everyday life things needed to happen, however, the relationships made them enjoyable and fun.
- Because growth happens.
Living in the Worldview community made my sins and human dependencies so much clearer to me. At times this was scary but working through these is always worthwhile and refining. We shared numerous great memories, but there were also moments when we would clash. We would disagree on topics, or have misunderstandings and find ourselves needing to apologise. But these also made us grow stronger together and closer to God. It is only through journeying with others that I recognised lies that I had believed about myself, and these were able to be brought into the light.
- Because when we belong, we can invite others to belong.
It is not only Christians who are made with a longing to belong. Loneliness is something so many people in our society experience, in fact in 2018 about 1 in 4 reported to currently experiencing loneliness- and I imagine this experience has only increased during the lockdowns, as a result of COVID-19. Non-Christians want a place where they feel welcomed, safe and like they are important. The tailrace community youth group is an amazing place of belonging. Youth who may be bullied at school are safe here. They matter there, and that knowledge and experience is powerful to a teenager, but also those older.
- Because proximity matters.
The second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We can’t love someone until we know them- without knowing someone that love is only surface deep. But the kind of love Jesus invites us into is bigger and deeper than that. It’s the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated for us- a love that goes beyond age, gender, ethnicity/race, sexuality, religion or any other social or personal characteristics.
Belonging isn’t something you can take, it is something you are given. So what does it look like for you, and me, to be a culture that says, “come let’s be together.” It might be messy, hard and challenging. But I also believe it can be sweet, and give us a glimpse into what we had in the Garden of Eden.
Question: What is your experience with belonging, is it something you are currently experiencing?
Thank you so much for joining me on this journey!
Previous Post: A group who gets me.
Tailrace Community has recently done a series on this theme of belonging, listen to their sermons here.
More statistics about social isolation and loneliness: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/social-isolation-and-loneliness