This week, I attended an online conference for my day job. One of the themes was community building. I mentioned that my mantra for community building for my spiritual community is “work together, eat together, pray together” and I noted that you’d probably need an alternative to “pray” for a secular community. One of the other people suggested “grow together”, harkening back to an earlier conversation comparing creating community to growing a garden. “Grow together” made me groan out loud. Luckily, being an online conference, no one heard that and I could compose a reasonable response.
There are two reasons I didn’t like “grow together”. The first – the one I gave in response at the conference – was that it is a result of community, not a way to create community. The second, unstated reason, was that I don’t like metaphors.
Metaphors are useful when trying to explain abstract concepts in more concrete terms. Creating a community is just like growing a garden… until you actually want to get down to doing either one. If you want to do either, eventually you have to stop talking in pretty abstracts and make an action plan.
I like “work, eat, pray” for my spiritual family, but there are lots of other actions that could be considered crucial to community building, depending on the community: celebrate together, sweat together, sing together, play together, learn together… but since a Pagan community isn’t a garden, we don’t grow together; since it isn’t a web or a blanket, we don’t weave together; and since it isn’t a ship, we don’t sail or row together.
For Silver Spiral, “work together” means pulling invasive weeds in a local park, making giant batches of perogies, serving on community organizations, and painting walls in each other’s homes and businesses. “Eat together” means preparing meals as a group, all contributing to our amazing potlucks, and enjoying fantastic conversations over food. “Pray together” means sharing sacred space, thinking of each other, and writing and rehearsing rituals for the larger community. These are real actions that lead to deeper friendships, good memories, positive associations, and, ultimately, that elusive feeling of community. No abstractions needed.