Last week two incredible friends of mine got married. We gathered in a forest in Kent and in the blistering heat witnessed them make vows, cut cake and smile as widely as I’ve ever seen two human beings smile.
It was a very special wedding, not just because I love them dearly, but because the majority of the wedding was sourced from their community of friends and family.
The wedding cake was a gift from a friend who makes cakes professionally. The pictures were taken by a friend who is also a wedding photographer. The table settings and decor – dreamt up and produced by two friends who own a design business. The invites and orders of service were designed by a relative who is also a professional animator. The wedding band – all friends. The minister conducting the service – another friend. The sound system was borrowed. And the desserts were provided by the guests as part of a “Bake Off” style competition…
In fact, bar a few things that had to be purchased (I can’t make a wedding dress. Yet) most of the wedding was a gift, in one way or another.
Just over 12 months ago my wife and I were having dinner with the newly engaged couple. As we began to chat to them about their hopes and dreams for the wedding, it became clear that if their whole community worked together, we could deliver their dream wedding.
And there endeth the tale… Except not quite.
You see, it’s now one week on and our shoulders are still aching from the lifting and carrying of chairs, drinks, tables and amps. The photographer is still selecting and touching up photos for their album (not that the beautiful couple need it, of course). And, I would wager, that most people involved have found themselves still sneaking the odd yawn or tired glance at the clock in the last few days to see if it’s bedtime yet.
Living in community sounds great!
Christians often look to Acts 2 and aspire to the type of living that “shared and sold possessions to give to anyone in need” or “had everything in common”.
It sounds amazing, like a glimpse of heaven perhaps. Yet we often stop short. We blame the modern pace of life, or practical issues like work, family, the mortgage. We tell ourselves: “It’s a nice idea, but we probably need to re-contextualise it for a 21st century view of community”.
And yet, in reality, I wonder if it’s just too hard and we’re too scared to admit it.
When you share or sell possessions, you decide that those things you own aren’t yours anymore and you no longer own them. Skills and talents can be the same; they belong to everyone and are there to be shared. Being together means not being elsewhere – and that can be costly. It also means being present when you are together and not caught up in emails, social media or some other phone-based pursuit. Holding everything in common means letting go of some of your own pre-conceptions, firmly held ideas and ways of doing things. It also means taking time to listen, to allow others the chance to shape the direction of your community and help point to the future.
And so we read Acts, longingly wishing there was just a way we could get there, and perhaps secretly hoping we never have to. Saving ourselves from the hard work, late nights, tough conversations, aching shoulders – all the tough stuff really living in community might cost us…
As I watched my friends get married I think I caught a glimpse of heaven, not just because of what was happening, but because of how it was happening. A collection of friends and loved ones selflessly sharing possessions, giving up time and talents and working together for a common goal.
For my friends getting married, the day was truly once in a lifetime. For the rest of us, I hope it’s something we experience far more regularly.