"Common," a very interesting word indeed... Sometimes it is used in a very pejorative way. If something is "common," it isn't lofty, special, or elite. However, it is a word with rich tradition and meaning.
The 500-year-old tradition of worship and praying in my own Anglican tradition is based on the Book of "Common" Prayer. The state just up the road is called the "Common" wealth of Massachusetts, and the term commonwealth is used even more broadly to describe our civic and public life and identity. And there has been and is much talk about the "common" good.
So, "common" is a very useful word. It is at the root and foundation of the word community, and all of us need that. We need community at every level in our lives.
Community is essential in our families, our schools, our places of work, our houses of worship, our neighborhoods and our towns. But it doesn't stop there. We need a sense of community in our state, our nation, and in the world itself.
As a person of faith, I believe that one of the gifts that God gives us as human beings is the ability to experience and create community in all of these ways and areas.
The problem seems to be that the world community is besieged in our present moment. We know that Americans tend to be more isolated than they were in previous generations, and a natural reaction to the anxiety of a fast-moving, challenging economic and social period like ours is to hunker down and "go it alone."
Part of the rhetoric of our present political climate involves some battle between the individual good and the common good.
And in the world we seem to have suddenly entered a time of fragmentation and violence, where suspicion is more normative than community, understanding, and diplomacy.
It is a crucial moment for us to engage the "common" good and hope, while we also build and experience community in a variety of forms and manifestations.
In the congregation I serve, we have the good fortune this very weekend to host someone who has spent years reflecting, writing, and speaking about these matters.
Jim Wallis will be offering an evening lecture (6:30 p.m., Saturday, September 29) entitled, "Whatever Happened to the Common Good? The Role of Faith in the Upcoming Election." This is not going to be a partisan event, but one that asks anyone who attends, whatever the person's political perspective might be, to think about the "common" and the gift of community in our nation and lives.
The question is a singularly significant one of us. What has happened to the "common" good? What has happened to community in our lives, in our society, in our nation, and in our world? And how does faith play a part in common good and community itself? Let me tell you, I am praying and thinking about these things a lot.
I have the blessing of experiencing community in many ways, and I try to be a citizen, person of faith, and leader who serves the common good. But I have to admit that I am frightened, too.
Polarization, isolation, and fragmentation keep us separated, at odds, and unable to accomplish what I believe God wants us and inspires us to accomplish. We need to become more aware and more intent on how God joins humanity together and how God cares for all human beings.
It is a pivotal time for us to reflect on the common good as we make decisions about our nation in these next several weeks. And it is also a pivotal time for us to experience community that gives us life and hope.
Both dimensions are so significant for our well being and the well being of the world. May we engage in "common" good, prayer, and life.
RSVP (no charge) to Jim Wallis', Saturday, September 29 lecture, "Whatever Happened to the Common Good? The Role of Faith in the Upcoming Election," at www.christchurchgreenwich.org, and hear him preach on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 9:15 in Christ Church's Sunday morning worship. Rev. Joy Carroll Wallis will be the presenter at 10:10 a.m. on that Sunday for adult education.
She was one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England and the inspiration behind the hit BBC sitcom "The Vicar of Dibley." Jim and Joy come to Greenwich as part of the Christ Church Greenwich Courage and Faith Series.
The Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler is Rector of Christ Church Greenwich. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.