The whole town got a makeover. Sidewalks and bike trails were built to encourage people to leave their cars at home, and they began to use ‘walking school buses’ to get the children to school. Nutritious options were added to local menus at restaurants, the schools menus were completely changed, and people received coaching to minimize mindless eating in the home. Grocery stores also began to label some foods under the new heading “longevity foods.” This was all done in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota for the ambitious goal of adding years to the lives of the residents in the town. After just 5 months of implementing these changes the result was an average increase in life expectancy of 2.9 years! They made these strategic changes because they knew that the only way that people make healthy choices is if they are right in front of them, if the choices are something that they stumble over in their regular daily and weekly routines. Pursuing spiritual health and wholeness works the same way. And this is why the Cobblestone Community Groups are going to function the way they are.
Most people know that some form of diet and exercise is needed for physical health, but less well known is what is needed for spiritual health. Father Ronald Rolheiser makes the argument in his book, The Holy Longing, for four spiritual pillars of personal prayer/morality, social justice, community, and practicing mellowness of heart and spirit.
Personal prayer/morality- Engaging God through prayer and letting the Holy Spirit change our lives to be people marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control.
Social Justice - Throughout Scripture God’s people are called to go for the outsider, the stranger, the foreigner, those who are hurting, and hungry.
Mellowness of heart and spirit- Spending time enjoying the gifts of God; whether that be in nature, or with a meal with friends. This also reminds us that the world doesn’t rest on our shoulders.
Community - We are hardwired for community. (See the last post)
Cobblestone Community groups will be places for people to experience and practice all four of these pillars. Each group will meet every other week and will spend time praying and applying the gospel to our daily lives to bear more fruit. Each group will also partner with a local non-profit to do acts of service throughout the year. The groups will also spend some time having meals together, maybe arranging other social gatherings as well, and this will all be done together.
I firmly believe that these groups will be something like most of us will never experience anywhere else. Every member in the group will know that they have 10-12 others who are there to look after them, to care for them, and to carry their burdens. Everyone will have the chance to work with organizations that are helping people who are discarded by much of the world, and each person will enjoy God’s gifts together within a community.
I’ve had the privilege of spending this last week at a Summer Camp and it is a special place because there is so much that can be done only at a summer camp. To go polar bearing in the lake in the morning, can only be done here. To be in a canoe while the sun sets can only be done at places like here. And for many of these kids this is the only place where they are loved and accepted for who they are.
My hope and dream is to see these community groups become places that are gifts to each of us as places of care, love, and service to the outside world, but that most importantly they will become havens for those who have never experienced love and acceptance that is to be the primary marker of a Christian Community.