Monday, November 18, 2013

Thinking about Community: Applying Lessons from Language Revitalization to Faith Communities

I (Dale) spent the last two weeks recording Nuxalk in Bella Coola, while also working with language teachers towards understanding the steps to making the language a part of everyday life - making a community around the language.  The process brought to my mind many questions about community building in general.

Some communities are incredibly resilient in the face of outside pressure, while others melt away. Yes, you can blame the pressure, but when you look at a range of situations, the key factor seems to be not the amount of pressure on the community, but the stories that the community uses to hold itself together.  Kill the stories, and you destroy the ability to resist.  Take away the language, take away a voice, then teach a new language and a new voice--new stories--and recovery becomes very challenging.

This means that the strength of a community is in its mechanisms for passing on stories, for using them, for speaking--the strength lies in the community's ability to make those stories central to life.

In this podcast, we look at the idea of "church"--asking why and if church is working, assuming that the role of church is to build and strengthen a different kind of community rather than just be a window dressing for an already-existent community. I bring my experience working with language revitalization to bear on the question of the purpose of education, community, and what a recognition of this purpose means for how we regard gathering together.

   Listen to "Thinking about Community"

A question to get us started - what is the "work" that we do at church? what is it we accomplish, what are we trying to accomplish, how might we better pursue those goals?


  1. I really enjoyed this podcast. I fully believe that a faith community needs to get together on so many levels. I wondered why I often feel so lonely at church.

  2. Anonymous, you're not alone in that. I think this idea that church isn't "working" is something we need to explore further. There is great value in belonging to a community of believers, but too often community is reduced to attendance. That leaves me feeling empty, as well.