By the Rev. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div. D.Min, ABD
I remember walking around the small island of Iona in Scotland back in June of 2007 as a broken individual. Iona is a place where people go to escape the world for a short period of time. Iona is an intentional community, where those people from all over the world go to experience rest, work and1 worship. I encourage anyone seeking peace and solace to visit here.http://www.iona.org.uk/ From overworked college students to tenured professors, all kinds of people can be found forming an intentional community developing a sense of Koinonia, or intimate community where all are active participants. This is similar to Koinonia or community spoken of in the book A Well-Furnished Heart, by Dr. James Flynn, when the authors write about the importance of theological training being done in one’s ministry context.
Community is essential. Every person on this island that was there for the purpose of relaxation was expected not only to rest, but also to serve their peers at meal times on a rotational basis. Everyone had a role in the community whether they came broken or emotionally whole. This is the same for our community. We all have roles to play in our effort to grow together. Some of the people that I met on this island were broken and hurting from failed marriages, unruly children and dysfunctional churches. Some of us in our community have also been hurt by fellow clergy, parishioners, supervisors, co-workers or even family. We need our community….All of us….even ministry leaders.
Pastors sometimes take sabbatical time away from their ministry settings to connect with God and commune with others here. I, like many others, found Iona to be a healing community. At the time, I was nearing the end of my undergraduate study. I felt like I needed to prove to people, including myself, that I was capable of success so I completed my double major in 3.5 years when many students barely completed one major in the standard four years. I was “caught-up” in my relevant self as Henri J.M. Nouwen describes on page 28 of the book In the Name of Jesus. I wanted to prove to the world that I WAS somebody. This “proving” of who I was, and what I could do left me mentally exhausted and broken. I needed to be in a community that loved me for me and not for what I had accomplished. I found just what I went searching for once I was away from my everyday environment.
Although I completed that degree seven years ago, I still find myself extremely busy. I would venture to say that I am not alone. Some of us like me are pursuing additional education; others have overwhelming family obligations to children, spouses, and aging parents. And for those of us in any form of ministry, we know how stretched thin we can sometimes become. Life can just be plain busy sometimes…. I am reminded of a previous lecture when a class discussed the idea of ministry not being simply something that we “do” but rather ministry being a part of us and our “being”. I wonder how are lives or ministries more specifically would change if we took on this mindset.
Like the island of Iona, I believe our community has the potential to be a “healing community”. We must all work in our ministry context, worship our Creator, and rest. We each have lives of our own but we can stand as intercessors for each other as we journey through this “thing called life.” It is important that we have accountability groups and partners because we all make mistakes and we should have a safe place to confess and seek Godly advice. Ministers also need to be able to glean ideas and support from others who share similar experiences.
I offer to our community my prayers. To our community I lend my ears which prompt me to pray when I hear of tragic losses of young men and women. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 when Paul uses the metaphor of many members yet one body. Some of us stand whole while others of us stand broken today. It is within a loving community such as my experience in Scotland that those of us who are broken can still stand healed through the blood of Jesus. I invite you to consider this question: What can I offer to my community?
—Rev. Lakeya Stewart