A couple months ago I wrote about how I had only recently jumped on the Brené Brown bandwagon, and I just now finished a second book by her, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. I chose this second work by Brown because the title intrigued me, especially the idea of “true belonging.” More and more, I am sensing, hearing stories about, and personally experiencing that we are becoming increasingly isolated, lonely, and disconnected from one another. And even though we sometimes make jokes about how the time of the pandemic has made us lose all our social skills, I think it only exacerbated an already existing problem.
Throughout the book, Brown argues that true belonging “is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world…” True belonging is rooted in the inner work of learning to belong to ourselves, but that work is refined and strengthened in the arena of community.
Brown hones in on 4 daily practices that are marks of true belonging:
- People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
- Speak true to bullshit. Be civil.
- Hold hands. With Strangers.
- Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
Even in just this list form, these practices are an inspiring challenge that names the difficult paradoxes of building community, so I won’t go into more detail about how she elaborates on them within the book. You can always borrow my copy if you want to read more.
But as I reflect on these practices, I think about how the Church (big “C”) and our specific congregation can be places where we build foundations for true belonging. There are lots of ways we already do these sorts of things, but there is always room for improvement or leaning more intentionally into one or the other practices.
One of the ways I think we do these things best is through Small Groups. These are intentional gatherings of people in homes for fellowship, around a specific topic or area of interest, or around a hands-on project or mission. Sometimes they are a bit of all of these mixed together. However these groups focus themselves, there are always relationships being created, sustained, and maybe even tested within them. Participants may find themselves being comforted and supported through hard times, or they may find these spaces to be ones where they can be challenged and encouraged to live more deeply in line with the Spirit.
Small Groups are a place where I believe we do a good job of building true belonging, but I also know there is room for improvement. More specifically, it can be a challenge to find places for everyone who is interested in joining a group. Schedules and aligning specific interests make this a challenge, but as the coordinator of our Small Group Program, I am also always looking for people willing to lead new groups. We have a couple new groups in the early stages of formation, but we can always use more. If this is something you might be interested in (even if you’re not completely sure), please let me know.
Brown says that “We’re in a spiritual crisis, and the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection. That connection–the spirit that flows between us and every other human in the world–is not something that can be broken; however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed.” My prayer is that the Church as a whole and Columbus Mennonite can be a place where we find lots of different ways to affirm and reaffirm our connections not just to each other but to the whole world.