Feeding the Five thousand and Community

These days I am staying at the Monastery of St. Clare in Memphis, TN. I share quarters with a friend of mine who is a priest while the sisters of St. Clare live in a separate building on the grounds. Once this place was a thriving community of women devoted to living out a life of simplicity and service. Now , like many religious communities, it has far fewer members while still living the life. It is a good place to reflect on the meaning of community and the ways we might create new structures that would sustain people today in their desire to live community.
A story... there was once a man who gathered thousands of people together and fed them a nourishing meal. It was amazing! All kinds of people... mostly poor though, gathered together and ate and drank, prayed, talked, sang, learned, and were satisfied. Of course this story is the gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand. This story is all about community and has both personal and political implications. Hungry people were fed and organized into groups of fifty. Think about it... What then? Perhaps then they could think about their situation and respond as a group. Perhaps then they would have the strength to say " yes " to building community and " no " to Empire. There was a lot going on on that hillside.
Fast forward about twenty centuries... on a hillside in the region of Burgundy in France and imagine yourself with several thousand people eating , drinking, talking , singing, learning, praying, and being satisfied. This is the community called Taize. The community itself is a Christian monastic community consisting of about 100 brothers who welcome people by the thousands .For the past 60 years or so this community has tried to live out a life of simplicity and service rooted in the Christian tradition.
Each day they gather to share a common life. Each member of the community is vowed to simplicity, celibacy, and a community of goods where everything is shared. Each day their songs and prayers offer themselves and the world into God's loving care and guidance. In the trusting of faith they continue beginning each day again and again.
What might this community have say to us in the 21st century? Is a community like this something that the people in the United States would benefit from? In what ways?

More to come...

Stefan Andre


The Question of Community...

More and more I hear people wondering about the possibilities of community. Community - defined as the intentional gathering of people to sustain one another over time in ways social, economical, spiritual, political. The more I reflect on matters in this country as we move further into the ways of Empire it seems clear that forming community is a good antedote, and an urgent medicine to the ills of Imperialism. As our American government pours more and more funds into the military-industrial complex less and less monies are available for health care, education, social programs for the poor, roads, bridges etc... How do we respond to this? One very practical way is indeed community. There are many ways to form community and many creative possibilities. In the next few entries I will be reflecting on these many ways and sharing specific stories and examples of courageous people who are responding. In addition I will lift up certain Gospel stories and attempt to demonstrate how Jesus calls us to a kind of community that not only nourishes human beings but also challenges powers and structures that keep people poor.
I invite your thoughts.

Stefan Andre


April 4, 1968 Memphis TN

Today, April 4 is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King . Here in Memphis where the murder took place many people continue to feel the grief , the sadness, and the anger of that day. A phone call from a good friend this morning made this very clear to me. " I have got to do something today", she said. " I can't explain what it is like to have experienced that day 40 years ago here in Memphis". Her voice was trembling , full of emotion and I felt for the first time the pain of someone who lived through April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN.
At this moment I am sitting in a little coffee shop in a poor neighborhood in Memphis. The Caritas Village is a new social justice oriented place where rich and poor eat together and share conversation. Across the table from me is Randy, an African American friend who works with Pax Christi on matters of racial reconciliation. Inbetween e-mails on our respective laptops we enjoy conversation. We speak honestly , fearlessly, like brothers. Memphis... a place of suffering and pain...a place of healing and reconciliation.