GROWTH IN THE LIFE
OF THE COMMUNITY
Each of us is
on a journey – the journey of life. Each of us is a pilgrim on
this road. The period of human growth, from the time when we are
infants in our mother’s womb to the day of our death, is both
very long and very short. And this growth is set between two
frailties the weakness of the tiny child and that of the person
who is dying.
Between each of these stages, there are steps to be crossed.
Each of these demands preparation and education and must bring
some suffering, particularly that of grieving for what is lost.
Human life is this journey, this growth towards a more realistic
and truer love; it is a journey towards wholeness.
The journey of each of us is a journey towards the integration
of our deep self with our qualities and weakness, our riches and
our poverty, our light and our darkness.
To grow is to emerge gradually from a land where our vision is
limited, where we are seeking and governed by egotistical
pleasure, by our sympathies and antipathies, to a land of
unlimited horizons and universal love, where we will be open to
every person and desire their happiness.
Just as there are steps to cross in human life, so are there
steps in the life of communities. And crossing these also
demands preparation, education and a degree of suffering.
There are the steps of foundation and launching, and then there
is the time when the community settles down in a peaceful
rhythm. It begins to flourish and expand. This is frequently
like a period of adolescence; members feel that their community
is unique and blessed by God; they are apart from others. They
are naive, ‘have all the truth’ and are very generous and
idealistic. Gradually they discover, sometimes through crisis,
that they are not perfect and that they have made some serious
mistakes; and that there are other communities blessed by God
with whom it would be wise to co operate. Then after a while the
number of new members begins to diminish. During this time there
can be tensions coming from the clarification of goals and life
These steps are less clear than those of human life, but they
are still there, and in some ways they are recurring; they never
end unless the community dies. Communities are born, grow and
give life, grow old and then are reborn. There are different
stages in the way authority is exercised, in the evolution of
structures of decision making. The community and those
responsible for it have to be careful that these transitions are
carried out well.
Many tensions in community come from the fact that some people
refuse to grow; yet the growth of a community depends on the
growth of each of its members. There are always people who
resist change; they refuse to evolve; they want things to be
maintained as they always were. In the same way, in human life,
many refuse growth and the demands of a new stage; they want to
remain children, or adolescent, or they refuse to grow old.
Community is always in a state of growth.
The journey towards community is one of continuing discovery. We
know little about the route ahead. We are not on an expedition
where we carry a detailed map and an itinerary which tells us
precisely when we will arrive at scheduled stopping off points
or even at our destination.