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formation as a key practice of the Ukrainian baptist communities


ABSTRACT

community baptist religious

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the practice of community formation and to see how it can be connected with our vulnerability as human beings. In this work I also attempt to explore what impact the practice of community formation could have on contemporary life particularly in Ukrainian Baptist context. I argue that community building should be a central point in the life of contemporary Christians. According to James McClendon, this practice needs to go along with two other subpractices which flow to the spheres of sharing and reconciliation. In this dissertation I consider sharing with a special focus on two aspects: shared meal and sharing ourselves. Then I look at reconciliation as the way of many steps which should be done toward the restoration of broken relationships.


INTRODUCTION

this dissertation I intend to explore the community formation as
powerful practice
following the thought of a Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, and to investigate what impact and influence it can have on the spiritual development of faith communities in Ukrainian Baptist context. I would like also to look at this practice through the lens of our vulnerability as human beings, and the ways how it can be overcame. I was motivated to explore this topic, first of all, by a great lack of investigation of the practice of community formation as such in the Ukrainian Christian literature and publications. The second reason for this exploration is my personal experience which I had in one Ukrainian Baptist community to which I was belonging more than 17 years.faith community exists already around 20 years. When this Baptist church was just emerging, the members of the community literally were burning to serve, to go forward, and to spread the good news among the people. I could evaluate that time as the period of growth and development. Unfortunately, later this
flame
died out. Therefore, after many years the consequences are that the community is getting smaller and smaller, excommunications are frequent, and constant conflicts and misunderstanding among the leaders and church members erode the community from inside. This Christian community is slowly dying. Consequently, during this investigation I am going to refer to this particular community as well.to my own observation, there is little understanding of the crucial importance and centrality of this practice, especially among the church leadership. However, development of community should be a major practice. Therefore, through this dissertation I also want to see how the practice of community formation can be applicable to faith communities such as this one. In the same time, I would like to address this work, first of all, to the church leadership in the context of Ukrainian Baptist communities. From my point of view, Christians need to consider more the example of leaders by which others should follow. Larry Spears suggests that it plays a fundamental role for the leadership. If the church leaders have this practice of community formation as a vision, and follow this vision, then others will follow it as well.practice of formation community gives a great meaning to Christian life. Community building should be a center and norm for Christian life for contemporary Christians as well as it was crucial for earliest Christian communities. The achievement of it requires intentional participants. Without this intentional attitude there will not be community
s growth. However, the development of the practice of community formation needs to go along with two other Christian
subpractices
, as McClendon points. It contains sharing in the covenantal meal and reconciliation. Therefore, following this, my dissertation has been divided into two parts based on the practice of community formation. The first part named
Shared Life.
This title has a special meaning. McClendon in his Ethics focuses mainly on the sharing in the context of covenantal meal. However, from my point of view, this
subpractice
has a wider context. It could include not only sharing in the covenantal meal or meal itself, but also other aspects of sharing ourselves with others. Therefore, in light of these considerations, I focus more on the particular word sharing, which can include more than covenantal meal. The second part of my dissertation is called
Reconciliation,
based specifically on McClendon
s approach.first part of this dissertation will examine the issue of sharing with its extended context. The first chapter gives a brief overview of the faith community as
koinonia
or fellowship. The next two chapters describe the issue of sharing as
shared meal
and
sharing ourselves.
Here I would like to draw special attention on the word sharing, to which I refer in both cases. For the first time, I used an adjective shared. In this case, shared meal means meal which is sharing or shared with someone, or involves others in the process of sharing. For the second time, the word sharing used as a verb. Thus, sharing ourselves here sounds more like a calling to do, to share ourselves with others, and for the sake of other people., by this casuistry, I would like to put between the lines a special focus on an imperative, on a calling to share; because this approach for sharing should come from our own fundamental attitude to share with others. Sharing should be an essential aspect of who we are. If we do not have such genuine motive to share, then all our sharing will not have sense. Finally, the last chapter of the first part describes the virtue of hospitality as a foundation for sharing. Hospitality should be a way of Christian living, which involves us in sharing.second part of my dissertation will focus on the process of reconciliation. In this section I would like to make connection between the practice of community formation and our vulnerability. I want to show how our sharing can hurt us and make us vulnerable. Here I also would like to touch the issue of betrayal. However, there is a way how to overcome these vulnerable feelings, and this way is in the forgiveness. In the same time, forgiveness is just the first step or
the prelude,
as William Klassen calls it, in reconciliation., in the last chapter of the second part of my dissertation I will try to give the answer on the questions:
Are
to forgive
and
to forget
the same? Is there any difference between them?
According to my observations, many Christians think that forgiveness means forgetting, and they quite often cite to the passage from Isaiah 43:25 where God said,
I will not remember your sins.
However, as McClendon points out, people do not need to take these words with
literal simplicity.
Therefore, I will argue that there is difference between
to forgive
and
to forget.


1. SHARED LIFE


1.1 Faith community as
koinonia


At the beginning of this chapter I would like to give one definition of the community which was created by William Sweet. He said,
A community is… a group of individuals whose members show affinities with one another, who may share history, language, and culture… and, hence, who have common interests and common good. These individuals are, then, socially interdependent, share certain practices… that both define the community and are nurtured by it.
However, it implies much more than merely the group of people. It should be the community of koinonia.word koinonia is the Greek term, which means
to share with someone in something, to participate and share in what others also share, to hold in common.
The community of koinonia also
signifies the bond joining the believers together to become the body of Christ. The church is in communion [koinonia] with Christ and one another.
It implies
the bond of belonging and solidarity among members of a community.
On the other hand, it is not only divine gift for the faith community; however, it also should be
the goal of all its striving.
The koinonia community leads to the idea of
the sharing of life to the full, at its deepest level and in all aspects.
It is striking to deal with the translation of koinonia or fellowship from English to Ukrainian language.
Товариство, братство
are Ukrainian equivalent words which can be used for English
fellowship.
These Ukrainian terms means the relationships which are in the deep level of relationships of brothers and sisters. koinonia also implies the unity about which Jesus prayed,
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us
(John 17:21a). The unity is cement that keeps community together as a monolith. There is an ancient saying,
Strength is in unity.
This gift of unity can be expressed and experienced only when there is a community of people. The foundation that keeps this genuine common unity is love. Love is the heart of united community of koinonia. However, love is not just sentimental idea. It is the process which requires sometimes very hard work of learning how to love each other from day to day. Still precisely this can hold Christian unity as one body in Christ, and develop corporate character of community. Jean Vanier points that Christian community formation starts when whole community begins to try to love people just as they are. Such loving community attracts other people to come and taste this love. Community of fellowship should be the place where you want to come again and again.the same time, this
loving
background helps to build a fearless atmosphere where each person can feel himself or herself free. It is written,
There is no fear in love
(1 John 4:18). Once someone defined community as
the people with whom we deeply share our lives.
However, this sharing can occur only if fear-free climate will be present in the community. Then, people can take off all their protective masks and be open to each other. Therefore, they can behave themselves with each other as they are in private life. Henri Nouwen says that building such fearless place should be a vocation for Christians. It empowers people to be open to others with all their strengths and weaknesses.the same time, it leads us to the aspect of acceptance others. If there is no acceptance, then community is in danger. There are can be present different types of people and personalities. It can be persons with a very difficult and
bad
character, or people with different views and understandings. However, the practice of community formation should stimulate us to try to accept those people as well. It would be strange if in Christian communities would be present just perfect and ideal people who contain only a lot of strong qualities. Thus, an acceptance is a process of learning how to communicate with people who have attitudes which are different from ours.also means to value other people. The attitude to value should be present in faith community even if those persons are not accepted from others
point of view. It really can be a challenge for many people. Here Jesus could be a very good pattern of acceptance of unacceptable people. As we can see in the Bible, He was quite often with sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors whose reputation was unacceptable. A good example of it is Jesus
visit to the tax collector Zacchaeus after which people were saying,
He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner
(Luke 19:7b). However, this passage also shows how an attitude of acceptance can transform people
s hearts. Therefore, a community of acceptance is a community of liberation. It is a place where people can be free from their fears of unacceptability. The community of koinonia is liberating. In view of the above considerations, it reminds that people are interdependent human beings. They need to have community which can help and support. This mutual sharing can be found in the fellowship of koinonia. Faith community should be
the embodiment
of koinonia monolith. From my point of view, this koinonia monolith should imply the unity within the community. Consequently, this unity can be a magnet, which will attract other people.


.2 Shared meal


1.2.1
The common table
in the circle: the Lord
s Suppercommunity of koinonia can be strengthened by the sharing meal. This koinonia is reflected and expressed in Christian sharing around
the common table
of the Lord
s Supper. Partaking in the Lord
s Supper shows the oneness of Christians as the body of Christ. This type of sharing also has a festive and joyful dimension. Reuniting of Christians in communion becomes a matter of joyful celebration; and by this faith community constitutes itself as the body of Christ. Shannon Jung characterizes the Eucharist as a performative act. This performative act of sharing, which includes the bread and the cup of wine, was constituted by Jesus Himself. People can get and realize the sense of koinonia unity with Christ and with other brothers and sisters by this act of communion. In the same time, we as Christians express our thanksgiving to God and our dependence on Him, and His grace and mercy.I would like to touch the issue of setting for the act of Eucharist. In Ukrainian Baptist context, people do not pay special attention to the arrangement of room for the communion. The bread and the cup of wine just pass through the church pews. However, in my opinion, it plays a crucial role and meaning. This idea has its roots in Zwingli
s understanding of it. He has suggested that communion room should be transformed in the way that participants of koinonia could be the true witnesses of the Lord
s Supper. This setting should show the centrality of sharing the covenantal meal. Now I would like to quote,
Zwingli planned a long table so that worshippers could sit down around the table and eat and drink together.
I want to share one powerful witness of one Christian faith community, which decided to change their arrangement for the celebrating of the Eucharist. The church leadership suggested moving from the pattern of simple passing the bread and the cup of wine through pews to the setting on the form of circles. They started to invite the church members to organize themselves in small groups of people around the different tables. Then, in such arrangement they can
pray for each other or processing forward to share in a common loaf and cup.
This idea had a great impact on people and their spiritual transformation.is striking to look at the term
closed communion.
It implies that
admission to the table is restricted to members of the local church, baptized as believers by immersion… and extended only to visitors commended as similarly qualified.
However, John Henson argues that such approach is
an indication of assumed superiority.
According to my observations, such situation is wide spread among the Ukrainian Baptist communities. It seems as special sacred ritual only for the selected people. I have heard as many church leaders explained this by the need for protection of the sacredness of the Lord
s Table. However,
Jesus does not wish and does not need to be protected… To exclude anyone who wishes to come to the Table from so doing, amounts to thinking that we are in a different category in relationship to God
s grace than they are. The moment we do that, communion ceases.
I would like to turn an investigation to another angle. Here I am going to attempt to make a connection between the Eucharist and architecture. Every shape provokes in us a special kind of perception. Consequently, every architectural shape and arrangement has a big influence on our feelings and perception of the environment. According to my own observation, people in Ukrainian Baptist communities, especially among the church leadership, pay a very small attention on this big connection.the contrary, early Christian communities paid a special attention on
the design
for their gatherings. It is striking that the room was designed in the way that all people
were literally gathered round the altar-table in an orderly and theologically sound manner: the altar-table was the immediate focus of attention on entering such a church, and the whole of the service could be seen and heard by everyone present.
This special arrangement has its roots in
the weekly Eucharistic meal
which early Christians had. This table with the Eucharistic meal can be considered as
a spiritual altar.
It can imply a centrality in itself around which early Christians were gathered. From my point of view, this idea of
a spiritual altar
can lead us to the much deeper consideration of what Baptist, particularly in Ukraine, really
put
in the center.to my own observations, many Baptist communities build their rooms for
gathering
around the pulpit. It shows the centrality of it for many of them. Gilbert Cope explains that such way of designing is an attempt to
provide for the maximum audibility of the preacher to a large congregation.
However, Ukrainian Baptists should reconsider their main focus. It should be turned to the focus on Eucharistic liturgy and its architectural arrangement. The term
liturgy
means
the work of the people.
It brings the dimension of corporate relation in sharing meal on
the common table.
Cope agrees,
If our Eucharistic worship is to be experienced as a corporate action, it follows that… [communities] ought to be designed that this liturgical function is most suitably provided for.
From my point of view, in the context of Ukrainian Baptists this approach requires a real revision and search for the new alternatives. Faith communities should consider of what kind of message and function brings their architectural arrangement. Ukrainian Baptist communities should start to think more
architecturally
toward sharing meal in the Eucharistic liturgy.view of the above considerations, the faith communities at the Ukrainian Baptist context really need to rethink and to reanalyze their approach and understanding of the Lord
s Supper. As I see, for many Christians it became simply the process of Eucharistic ritual without any meaningful attitude of united koinonia in the body of Christ. They have lost the important accents of it. I think that one of the reasons of it is that people lost the crucial meaning of sharing
extended
meal which flowing from the sharing of the covenantal meal.Pohl agrees that nowadays many faith communities have a big gap of understanding between the shared meal and the Lord
s Supper. From the very beginning the Eucharist and the sharing agape meal goes together. It has its roots in the early Christian church
s practice to gather together for sharing meal.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts
(Acts 2:46). They experienced koinonia which transformed them. Contemporary liturgical theologian Hoyt Hickman said,
Whatever the Lord
s Supper is, it is everything that eating is.
The act of communion implies the meal which has
the nourishing character.
Without this extended sharing meal it is difficult to get whole meaning of the Eucharist. It should be a real supper around
the common table
, supper of fellowship which unites people around Christ. Still, the process and ritual of eating and drinking together is
glue
for creating community.

1.2.2 Implication of
the common table
it was mentioned before, McClendon refers to the meal as an important part of the practice of community formation. The community of koinonia should be a sharing community. It means also that Christians
relational commitments should be not only on an inner level, but it must be expressed visibly to the other people. The practice of sharing meal reflects and expresses the reality and meaning of the Kingdom of God. Shannon defines food as
a generator
of community of fellowship. Sharing food with somebody is initial and basic act which socializes people as human beings. Sharing food is a central practice of every nation, because people cannot live without food, without nourishing themselves and others. Eating and drinking is
a communal experience.
When food is eating and drinking in community of people it implies special meaning. It shows a genuine sense of togetherness, unity, and communion. People can feel united themselves with each other by eating together. Common table of sharing expresses a desire to be together. In light of these considerations, it seems clear that meal and sharing meal has its relational dimension.food sustains and nourishes not only our bodies, but also our relationships with each other. It can create and sustain new relationships as well. When people are eating or drinking together, it shows that they are all, first of all, accepted in that community; secondly, it expresses mutuality within this group of people. As Pohl points out, food has
a profoundly egalitarian dimension.
Following this statement,
the common table
of the Lord
s Supper can include everyone; everyone can partake in it.
The common table
excludes any difference between people. For
the common table
it does not matter what is person
s background. All participants of
the common table
are equal. Henson says that
the common table
is also
a celebration of the physical.
The bread and the wine which are used for the Eucharist are the physical things. Nevertheless, they play the role of witnesses of Jesus Christ. It shows that
the sacramental depends on the physical.
makes a connection between people. When we are sharing our food and eating together, it reveals our interdependence. Sometimes we depend on others, who can give us some food. Sometimes we depend on those who can grow and planted the food on our tables. Sometimes we depend on those people who can cook it for us. Consequently, meal shows mutuality between human beings in need for food. Sharing meal also implies a dimension of joy. When people are eating or drinking they do not share only with food, but also they share in joy. They are celebrating the presence of each other. However, from my point of view, this joy of presence also implies the presence of peace within participants of common dinner. Being around
the common table
can speak about the quality of relationships. People, between whom their relationships are broken, cannot sit at the one table. Therefore, I think that it reveal another aspect of sharing meal that
the common table
can be a healing place for broken relationships. Then people, who are sitting at
the common table,
use a trajectory of moving from isolation to the extended relationships in the united community of koinonia.the same time, sharing meal breaks the boundaries which people make between themselves. Here I would like to refer to Jesus
example. His attitude was to accept all of people; even those who are seem as
unacceptable
. In the course of His ministry Jesus spent a lot of time by eating and drinking with such
unacceptable
people. There is also a powerful example of Peter which written in the book of Acts 10-11. It is a powerful story about
the common table
between the apostle Peter and the gentile Cornelius. Peter said,
You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person… unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection
(Acts 10:28-29). Therefore,
the common table
of sharing meal means hospitality and acceptance of every person.it was mention before, meal has in itself a performative character. Sharing meal is a gesture. It is also a type of non-verbal communication.
Even the simple gesture of passing the potatoes is a natural moment of communication which can bring people out of their isolation. They cannot remain behind the barriers of their depression when they have to ask for the salt. The need for food encourages communication.
view of the above considerations, there is an important meaning of food in the people
s lives in different aspects. However, such considerations are quite new and
exotic
for Ukrainian Baptist context. Nevertheless, from my point of view, the Ukrainian Christian communities should rethink and redefine the meaning of a meal. Here I would like to make a special reference to the faith community, to which I was belonging, as I said before, more than 17 years. As I remember,
the common table
was happening often in the beginning of the existence of this community. However, then the quantity of it went down very fast. Now, I see the connection between spiritual condition and growth of the church members and the time which was spending together around the sharing meal. Now the faith community is shrinking and dying slowly., my opinion is that
the common table,
the practice of sharing meal could be very good treatment of its spiritual health. It could be a really refreshing approach for the community.
The common table
could strengthen interpersonal relationships within the community. Sharing food could become joyful moments of presence each other. I think that the faith communities should learn to celebrate the presence of other people, does not matter
insiders
or
outsiders
of that community. It leads to an idea of the church as
a dinner
. This image implies that a dinner of whole community should be an important and central moment in community
s life. Consequently, the meaning of common food needs to be reclaimed and redefined. From my point of view, this practice could revive, refresh, and reborn this particular Ukrainian faith community. This Christian community should become
a table of welcome,
which will welcome everyone who comes.light of these considerations, I also would like to discuss what the relationship should be between a meal and the Eucharist. Should
the common table
be the context of the Lord
s Supper or the two is separated? From my point of view, from the sharing of the communal bread and wine flows the sharing of the meal in its extended understanding. It should develop into the experience of the whole community. As it was mentioned before, food brings in itself performative character. This performative act brings the aspect of togetherness and unity between people, which flows from the act of the Lord
s Supper. However, from my point of view, Ukrainian Baptists lost this link between the Eucharist and sharing meal as a communal experience.the contrary, for the early Christians this connection was very crucial. At the beginning Christian services were mostly domestic; consequently, the room was
furnished with a D-shaped low table around which guests reclined to eat.
Therefore, Ukrainian faith communities should consider the application of this experience to their lives. Cope, referring to the early Christian communities, points out that
from the Eucharistic communion in which only a small token quantity of the ritually offered bread and wine was consumed by the believers, while the
real meal
was continued as a separated function.
I think that the application of this link between the Lord
s Supper and sharing meal can bring real refreshment in the communities
spiritual growth and development in Ukrainian context.


.3 Sharing ourselves


1.3.1 Intentional availabilitymentioned already that people are interdependent human beings. They cannot be without a community of other people. They really need to share something with someone. David McCarthy defines the practicing of sharing as
a basic grammar of common life.
Shannon calls it
a school of sociability.
It is really essential aspect of our being as human beings. From the theological point of view, our sharing as Christians makes the Kingdom of God visible for this world. Thus, sharing is essential aspect us not just as human beings, but also as Christians. It is difficult to imagine how the Holy Spirit will move people to the unity in koinonia, if they would not share with each other. Therefore, here I would like first of all to consider about the nature of sharing itself.real sharing in community implies our openness toward other people. It means the sharing ourselves with others, or revealing our strengths and weaknesses to other people. This is the meaning of koinonia which characterizes by knowing others and, in the same time, be known by other people. This openness also should be extended to those who are outside of community. I think that people rather prefer to isolate their interior than to open it. Therefore, this sharing requires our willingness for self-disclosing and being ready to be changed. It takes sometimes a lot of time to manage this transition from the stage of
the community for myself
to the level of
myself for the community.
It requires dedicated discipline for it. However, precisely this attitude can make us as the whole persons. To share ourselves, to open ourselves toward others is the most precious gift which you can give to people. This gift involves us in storytelling. People reveal their story of their lives. Then, seeing the open souls of others, we become to know each other in a deeper level. It also helps us to learn how to love other people who have different stories from ours., somebody can ask,
But how can the person become an open to others? What is the process of it?
I think that the first and starting point is to be open to God. Here I would like to quote from the Rule of Northumbria Community that an openness to God should be
in the cell of our own heart when we can be turned towards Him, and seek His face.
Here there is logic. If people will be more open to God, they will show more openness toward others. Availability says,
I will be there for you,
and keeps this process continuing. People in availability commit themselves to be with someone, and really participate in the life of that person.
With
is a key of availability. As I said before, still it is hard process. Therefore, I think that first of all we need to start our
open
sharing with our brothers and sisters. If it will happen, then it will overflow into wider context of the society which is outside of the faith community.the achievement of this openness of ourselves, people need to overcome many barriers. I have heard often when people in some Ukrainian Baptist communities said,
We need to be closed from this sinful world;
and in this case they usually are referring to the passage from 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 where it is written,
What fellowship has light with darkness?.. Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?.. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them.
Many Christians often try to build these protective walls from outward world. However, Jean Vanier points out that the Christian communities should manage to be apart from this world, but in the same time trying to keep them open to this world. It means that faith communities need to keep their Christian values and do not identify themselves with this world. However, still be open to
outsiders
and try to realize the true values which can exist in the society.also argues that those Christians who do not see this are incapable of listening to others. They hold strongly the ancient presupposition,
All other people are wrong, just I am right.
I have heard recently as a church leader of one Ukrainian community said,
Now we are going to build the holy church and nothing and nobody
unclean
will not come in this place.
I was wondering how this faith community understands its mission in this world. Here I again want to quote from the Northumbria Community
s Rule which proclaims,
Do not build walls for the non-Christian to climb over.
I think that first Christians should overcome those walls and barriers that
outsiders
could come freely into the community of fellowship. When faith communities will make themselves open, then others will know truly what the Christians values are. In the light of these considerations, I think that Christian
s community especially in Baptist context in Ukraine should rediscover and redefine the meaning of availability. From my point of view, availability can be only intentional, because without the willingness people never can be available to others. I like the definition of availability by Thomas Reynolds. It is
an aptitude to give oneself to anything… and to bind oneself by the gift.
It implies that we should give ourselves as gift of availability for others. It is risky. However, it is precisely what the concept of sharing ourselves requires.be available is a very good quality of true friendship. However, the word
friend
or
friendship
quite often is used by some people as a label almost to everyone who are not their enemies. Nowadays a good example of
labeling friends
is the Facebook. Today many people have on their profiles a lot of other people who called as
friends.
However, there is no guarantee that they have strong friendships with many of them. From my point of view, the networks as the Facebook, or the Contact (Контакт), the Russian one, give to people a big opportunity to extend their acquaintanceship with other people; but, in the same time, they have a big influence on blurring a definition of true friendship. Gregory Jones would agree that social networks like Facebook or Contact (Контакт), the Russian one, are important and give people an opportunity to amplify their acquaintanceship with other people; however he says that
Facebook friends and social networking are not adequate substitutes for authentic friendship.
Then he continues,
We may have multiple social networks and thousands of acquaintances and still find ourselves profoundly lonely.
, who can people call as friends? I like this definition of friendship -
a friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.
Precisely to such person people can be truly open, and they can share with him or her everything what they have in their hearts. Only from true friends we can hear about the sides of our life about which we do not really prefer to talk. Sometimes friends can know us better than we know ourselves. The true friends are not like
friends
on the Facebook who are online just from time to time. The true friends are always
online
for us. Their availability is a continuing process. It is a great gift which people can receive. This type of friendship an help us to live truthfully and hopefully. I think that only for such type of relationships the term
friend
needs to be reserved.it was reflected before, the sharing of ourselves means to reveal ourselves toward other people. In other words, it requires openness. However, in the same time, it does not imply a total openness and total revealing. All people can have some secrets which can be revealed only to God. Consequently, it leads to the understanding of
closedness
in relationships. It implies keeping someone
s secrets. The revealing someone
s secrets can break strongly relationships between people. This closedness requires mutual protection of other person. Then, this closedness will lead to more openness. Therefore, we need to keep the intimate mystery of friendship between each other.it was mentioned above, the openness requires mutuality, because sharing is not just giving over and over again. It is also receiving. Openness and sharing is, as Arthur Gish defines,
a two-way experience.
It leads to the virtue of reciprocity. Here I would like to refer to McCarthy
s thoughts. He calls reciprocity as
a habit of how we are disposed toward the good from others, the good for others, and the goods of life.
The concept of reciprocity also draws a special attention to the act of
receiving.
I think that everyone knows that if he or she will practice sharing just by giving without any receiving something back, he or she will be burnt out and exhausted. Then, that person simple will not be able to give something else. Therefore, receiving should be present in the social relationships between people., in the same time, reciprocity is not the method of exchange, or it is not a payback. McCarthy argues that the virtue of reciprocity has deal not with a payback, but more with our disposition
to do the good in terms of what and how we receive.
It points more on our inner motives. Reciprocity is not just the method which we can use, but it should be more as our attitude toward people. It is a gift which creates the mutuality between people. This mutuality to give and mutuality to receive should be on an equal level.interesting aspect is how this reciprocity is working between people and God. Through the biblical passages it is clear that the love of God is not motivated by people
s own goodness. His love is unconditional. Therefore, it leads to the understanding that God
s love is not based on mutuality, but it is unilateral. The love of God shows strongly the aspect of
giving
. McCarthy points out that such kind of love can justify altruism. It means just to love without any expectation of return.the light of these considerations, someone can ask,
Is it possible to follow this example of God?
Someone can answer strongly,
We must follow it without any objections and exceptions!
I have heard a lot of such answers. However, then in reality those people did not follow their own words of
we must do it.
It is so easy to say, but I think that it is much harder to do it in the context of relationships between people, because
it seems hardly possible to talk about being friends with God and friends with fellow human beings in the same breath.
McCarthy argues that the answer could be found if we look more carefully at the nature of the love of God and the love of people. These natures are incomparable. He makes very interesting association that these two types of love are like the love between a human being and an animal. The love of people always is connected with something. It cannot be without any connections with some attractive objects. We love because of something.the contrary, the love of God has another nature.
God is the subject of love. God
s love is not moved by or attracted to an object of love, but is the source of its being. God is not
moved by
but is the cause of love
s movement. God is not
attracted by
but makes attractive.
It is a crucial point in the understanding of the concept of reciprocity. As it was said before, God is the subject of love. However, this subject is communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The aim of God
s love is to make the possibility for people to be participants in that communion. Then, this
open room
gives us the possibility to share the love of God in a new way with other people.ourselves in the community of koinonia implies a daily fellowship. The faith communities should keep day-to-day connections between the people within it. It could be simply visiting, sending messages, or calling just to ask,
How are you doing?
It is really important point for strengthening friendship between each other. I have heard many times when people complained that no one was trying to ask them how they are doing when they missed worship services. Gish says that even missing of one meeting by one fellow member should be a push for concern.the same time, Sunday worship services should be as just one of the opportunities to meet together as a community. It is not enough for deepening relationships. People can use different other activities for it. Here I would like to highlight three spheres. First of all, it is eating and drinking together. It was said a lot about this issue before. However, again I want to make a point that it should happen as often as possible. In the second place, Christians should assign time and space just for playing together. It brings the dimension of joy and happiness of being present with each other. In such sphere of activity we can reveal each other in a new way. This time spending together in playing can help to break down some walls between people. It could sound strange, but playing together also has an implication of healing relationships. Finally, in the third place, I want to focus on the process of working together. In this context people have an opportunity to learn how to live with each other, how to accept each other, and how to trust to each other. All these different activities give an opportunity for the faith communities to grow and develop.

1.3.2 Listening as a gesture of presenceDonghi defines listening as the fundamental activity of human beings. It is the form of communication. Therefore, listening to others is a crucial part of the sharing ourselves. It is an activity of those people who have a desire to communication with others. Thus, listening should a fundamental activity for Christian communities as well.communities which are able and available to listen will be aware about things which are going within the community. Therefore, they could respond on the needs of people in the proper way by that ability to listen. In the community of koinonia people need to feel themselves free to tell others their story; and people should make sure that they will be listened and understood. To create such place is the role of the community. The community of fellowship should be a place of learning how to speak, and a place of learning how to listen. This ability and willingness of listening shows humility and readiness of a leader to acknowledge his or her mistakes and faults. However, there is quite often that the church leadership is not able to listen to the other members of community, and honestly do not want to do it. These leaders are afraid to listen, because they are afraid that it can bring some changes in their
kingdom.
Therefore, they try to put rules and regulations everywhere. However, I think that it is a huge weakness of such communities, because one of the foundations of healthy faith community is ability and willingness to listen.is a work process of learning how to listen. In my essay
The True Meaning of Being on the Top of Pyramid of Leadership
I defined it as
the discipline of learning to listen.
Therefore, I would like to define several requirements of listening. It is (1) time, (2) silence, (3) presence / attention, (4) trust / honesty, and (5) remembering.first requirement of listening is time. Everyone knows that time is so precious thing. Therefore, many people always are busy. They are trying to do a lot of things. However, in the same time, people quite often are hurt that no one gives then special attention or time to listen without any interruption. From my point of view, there is a problem. Many people want to be listened, but they do not want to listen to others. One Benedictine monk said,
In a fast food culture, you have to remind yourself that some things cannot be done quickly.
The real listening takes time. It is a precious gift which we as Christians can give to people.next point of listening is silence. Every language contains with the words by which we can communicate with each other. Some people use them a lot, some not. However, not everything can be expressed through the words. I think that in the way of talking we often forget about another way of communication is silence. For some persons silence is quite scary thing, because they are afraid to be in silence. Still silence is an important requirement for a listener. It means to listen to other without interruption. This
silent
approach gives the opportunity to hear what other person tells us.the third place I put the requirement of presence or attention. The phrase
Here I am
is the key point of presence. It implies just to be present with other person. The foundation for this ability takes its roots in love. Vanier argues that the Christian community should a place of presence with others. So, what does it imply to be present to other people? First of all, it requires attentiveness. Attentiveness means that
I focus on the other person and his or her experience… This attentiveness to the other involves setting some things aside.
I had an experience when I was talking with someone, and he looked as he is present here with me. However, I felt that he really was not. Therefore, to be present or to be attentive to another person means to be fully involved in the process of listening.fourth requirement of listening is trust or honesty. When you are listening and other is talking to you, it means that the person trust you. Sharing ourselves is based on trust and honesty between people. Anything less of it will destroy the community. I would to add that trust also requires security and respect of what the person is talking to you. People need to keep the secrets and wounds of others and respect their insights.
An assurance of confidentiality is an essential part of being a listener.
In the same time, trust does not appear in one day. The learning to trust to others takes a lot of time. From my point of view, the starting point of trust should be not in the people
s relationships, but between person and God, because sometimes we need also to learn how to trust in God., the fifth quality of listening is remembering. Our listening should move into remembering of what we have heard.
Sending a
thank you
note, reminding someone you are praying for them, embracing them after church, offering a simple gift or encouraging e-mail or phone message - these simple gestures shout,
I remember!
, the faith communities need to grow and develop in the ability to listen to the people who are around them. Christians need to keep this precious gift of listening. In this context, I would like to suggest the discipline of meditation as a practice for the ability to listen. At the beginning of this discussion, I want to say that this point can have
a stranger sound
, even sinful, for many Baptists in Ukrainian context. The application of meditation in the daily Christian life could seem as something exotic in Ukraine. From my point of view, the foundation of this problem is in the wrong and misleading interpretation of Christian meditation itself among the faith communities., Richard Foster calls the Christian meditation as
the discipline
. Morton Kelsey explains that Christian meditation is
the attempt to provide the soul with a proper environment in which to grow.
Another author Hulme William Edward says that meditation is
the practice of the presence of God.
Foster adds that it is
the ability to hear God
s voice and obey his word.
Consequently, our ability to listen is flowing from our ability to hear and listen to God. We, as Baptists, like to talk and to proclaim the good news. Therefore, I think that listening can be a challenge for the Baptist communities, particularly in Ukrainian context. However, precisely this challenge can teach us how to stop and to listen to others. Kelsey compares this with
stopping a car when one sees the
STOP-LOOK-LISTEN
sign at a railroad crossing.
I think that Ukrainian Baptist communities should apply this sign
STOP-LOOK-LISTEN
to their lives as well. Therefore, Christian meditation is the first step to learn to be quiet and silent, because it is
a time for receiving, for silence, for listening…


1.4 The virtue of hospitality as a foundation for sharing

from my own Ukrainian culture, I can say that Ukrainians actually are hospitable people. Therefore, consideration of hospitality is quite close to the mentality of my nation. Nevertheless, some faith communities would think that the organization the refreshments or just spending some time to talk with others after the Sunday service will be the hospitality itself. However, the implications of it should go much deeper. is a virtue. There is another definition which characterizes it as
one of the pillars of morality upon which the universe stands.
The Greek word philoxenia can be used for hospitality. This term bears in itself two words with different meanings. One is phileo which is used as the general term for love. Another is xenos which implies the stranger. Consequently, the word philoxenia could means as showing the love for a stranger. When there is this showing of love for the strangers, it means that faith community is alive. However, it is not optional point for the community. The practicing of hospitality is necessity for Christians. Christians should show their readiness to follow it. Shannon defines hospitality as a bridge which can help the theology with daily life. In the same time, it should be a voluntary act. It should go from the attitude of a grateful heart. Hospitality involves our gratitude for the love of God and His care of us. Then, we can share with others what we have received from God., still there is a strict division on public and private spheres of life. The life becomes so similar to the iceberg. People can see just one part of us, but another part is hidden under water of confidentiality. However, the walls of our security should be broke down to allow God to be the Lord of our entire lives as Christians.
If God is not God of all parts of our lives, God is not really God of any part of our lives.
God does not need to be privatized by us; He must be public God who is available for all people. Therefore, hospitality can be that important hammer which could break down this division of public and private.I want to turn to Jesus who is portrayed in the Bible as a stranger as well.
He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him
(John 1:11).
Jesus experienced the vulnerability of the homeless infant, the child refugee, the adult with no place to lay his head, the despised convict.
Nevertheless, hospitality was an essential feature of Jesus
ministry on the earth., there is a question,
Who is a stranger?
The definition can be that it is a person
without a place.
In the same time, Rodney Clapp suggests that stranger is that person who crosses borders. Jesus was that Person who crossed and ignored borders. He was hospitable and welcomed people who were unacceptable and
unclean
in the eyes of society. Therefore, Jesus was a stranger for many people. Then He said later,
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head
(Matt. 8:20). Stranger is a person who is like from another world and he or she speaks another language.the same time, from my point of view, even our brothers and sisters can be strangers within the community. They can become those persons who cross the borders of different church rules and regulations which make community closed from the world. There is a logical connection. If the heart of community will be open to its own members, then this heart will be open to the people who are around the community. It requires willingness to be hospitable and open to others. Hospitality is
a will to embrace.
Therefore,
hospitality is resistance.
It resists borders and boundaries which people make around themselves and around others. Society creates some standards by which some people become invisible for the society. Their needs and wounds become invisible for the society. The same things sometimes happen in the faith communities as well. Christians decides just do not
see
some people. Then, hospitality can resist such standards of
invisibility
and make a way for the visibility and recognition.recognition of strangers in our midst implies
seeing
the dignity of other person. It is a
distinctive feature
of the virtue of hospitality. The great theologian John Calvin said:, whatever man you meet who needs your aid, you have no reason to refuse to help him. Say,
He is a stranger
; but the Lord has given him a mark that ought to be familiar to you, by virtue of the fact that he forbids you to despise your own flesh (Isa. 58:7). Say,
He is contemptible and worthless
; but the Lord shows him to be one to whom he has deigned to give the beauty of his image. Say that you owe nothing for any service of his; but God, as it were, has put him in his own place in order that you may recognize toward him the many and great benefits with which God has bound you to himself. Say that he does not deserve even your least effort for his sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions.
s thoughts can be a good reminder that we all bear the image of God. We are equal in need of hospitality and welcome.is also an inner attitude. Hospitality starts not from the opening the doors of our house. Hospitality begins from the opening the doors of our heart. Hospitality is creating the open space in our hearts, where other person can become a friend. It should the first step of Christian communities. Finally,
hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment… It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free… Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.


2. RECONCILIATION




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