Do small Christian communities have their spirituality?
Asking what the objectives and goals of Catholics forming and promoting the growth of small Christian communities (SCCs) is an interrogative question on the spirituality of the Small Christian Community. The name “small” suggests a group of few individuals from the same neighbourhood or are brought together by their faith demands, quests and concerns to build a spirituality of communion. For instance, the Small Christian Community can have 8-15 individuals or 5-10 families but not a large number that diminishes the goal of a Small Christian Community. The minimum recommended number is 10 while the maximum number is 30.
When the few persons meet together with the desired goal to understand and share their faith, they become a small Christian community. The word “Christian” is necessary because the idea of Christ is central which makes the group different from any other gathering of the few individuals with a socio-economic, political organization, scientific research or any other interests outside the realm of faith as it is lived in the church and expressed in their world. We live in the endless life predicament of the search for the meaning of life. By forming and sustaining small faith communities, people want to have a collective dialogue that sheds hope and meaning in their real-life stories. We have an example of the questions like, why evil exists? Why evil exists in the community, for instance, the evil of corruption? As a responsive journey, Catholics meet in their small faith communities to share their faith, deepen their understanding of the scripture, reflect on their life actions and experiences illumined by faith they profess. In their sharing of faith and life experiences, the idea of Christ that is central grows and influences their lives for a worthy living. They meet/gather in the SCC to be influenced by that idea of Christ and eventually discover Christ himself through one another in the community, in the sacraments, and in his word, and consequently, develop a lasting relationship with him. They develop a relationship that is transformed and oriented to communion with others. This relationship with Christ inspires members’ actions both individually and communally seeking God’s desires other than individual desires. Again, the risen Christ is experienced in the community through this borne and sustained relationship with him. Sociologists have identified that when people are engaged in small groups, their relationships grow stronger and they begin to trust one another better. In the context of the Small Christian Community, not only relationships that grow but also faith that is expressed through hospitality, communion and unity, prayer and charity and the desire to be missionary disciples of love and mercy.
Unfortunately, it is not only conflicts and the contemporary growth of the culture of individualism that threatens the community and its life, but also, the lack of small Christian communities with honest conversations. Yes, some people are hungering for the small Christian community but as soon as they discover the conversations are not honest, they find themselves thrown into despair, loneliness, mistrust and consequently, they lose the value of faith, community, and the church. When the small Christian community aims at making the parish a family of God (Church family), and not self-promoting group or a bunch of organized individuals to bring reforms for their popular gain, honest conversations happen, and Christians discern God’s intention for themselves and the larger community; The Church.
Besides, people meet in the Small Christian Community, they truly discover, renew and recommit themselves to their mission of being sent that is rooted in their Christian baptism. Furthermore, they realize their giftedness and the talents they possess can be put into the service of the community to build the Body of Christ as One. The Body of Christ metaphor helps Catholics visualize the real unity of the church.
In the early days of the Apostles, the small Christian communities emerged as the settings for the early Christians to share the story of the risen Jesus Christ, and to make that story their real-life expression through their love for one another and especially the poor and the needy in their midst. By way of keeping to this sacred practice, Christians and particularly Catholics, today form small Christian communities as a way of concrete expression of the gospel message of love, hope, and solidarity. In the same way, the love that is expressed in the small Christian community models the one of the Holy Trinity and their perfect communion. Christians, therefore, meet in the SCC to desire, be inspired and learn the Trinitarian love and communion model, and make it their own Christian life experience and story, through their radical affirmation that God is love and communion.
Finally, but not least, there is a new paradigm of reawakened Christianity that is truly beginning to appreciate their interconnectedness with the creation and their role of stewardship over the creation more than ever before. Catholics inspired by the gift of creation, they are growing more with the appreciation of creation as the Mother who needs to be nurtured and therefore, they are embracing “Ecological Conversion”. It may be said, this is a new movement by the SCCs towards discussions on the environment and the care for the natural world as a serious Christian responsibility to avert the impact of global warming and avoid the sin of omission. More importantly, it is the role of the SCC to foster that appreciation and action-oriented faith into ecological conversion.
Lawrence M. Muuna has a master’s degree in Pastoral Theology and social justice from Loyola University in New Orleans, USA and he is a Doctoral Degree Student in Pastoral Theology with a focus on Pastoral Leadership and administration. Muuna is also an ordained minister in the Catholic Diocese of Meru, Kenya where he engages himself with laity faith formation and catechesis, youth ministry, small Christian Communities development and leadership development which can be tracked here https://www.minsccs.org. In the USA, he is involved in University Chaplaincy and Parish administration. He is a member of the AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) training team. You can reach Lawrence M. Muuna on firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com