One of the ideas that has really dominated the western Christian church is the concept of denominationalism. In the west, many denominations will split and argue over different pieces of theology, dogma, or faith practice. It is almost as if the different denominations are in competition with each other for the right to be the true Christian faith. This is a product of our culture. In the west, the idea that might makes right runs rampant. It is almost as if the different Christian denominations are declared the true faith if at least 51% of the population agrees with them. The problem is this was not how Christ, and later the Celts viewed the idea of community.
What Community Meant to the Celt
Being a community to the Celts did not mean power. Being a community to the Celts meant that the people who are part of the community care deeply for the others. Where modern denominations seek to be proven right, The Celtic communities of Christians instead sought to be vessels of the love of Christ. A unique feature of these communities was the idea that members were to be a blessing to all, not just those in their own community.
The Celtic view of religious community has its roots in the Desert Fathers monasticism. Community to the Celts went far beyond a shared worship “experience” on Sundays. To these communities, the place to experience Jesus was in the everyday. Every moment of ones life was a “worship experience”. This is because of the deep held belief of journeying with Christ through life. Where the western church works to get people to heaven, the Celtic communities of faith seek to bring heaven to the people. It is an anemic view of Christ, to only experience God in the afterlife.
Lessons From an Ancient Way of Life
What we can learn from the Celtic concept of community is that loving Christ and serving people has almost nothing to do with power or popularity. It seems clear from scripture that not only was the the right thing unpopular, power continually seeks to eliminate it. The message and community of Christ will never be built on the shifting sands of political power or popularity. The true message and faith is belt on the foundations of the faith, hope and love that comes with actively journeying with Christ through life. As a community, if we could exemplify the faith instead of trying to add rules and regulations to it, we would see a drastic change in the western church.
Effective Community is More Than Just Having Community
Community is an important thing. Deeper than having community is why you have community. Do you attend church because you think they have the best doctrine, the best choir or best programs. If these are the biggest reason for attending a faith community, your reasons are very selfish. When we approach a community, as Christians, we should be seeking to contribute and aid in the love of people and the spreading of the gospel message. Imagine what the church would be capable of if we sought bring faith, hope and love instead of wielding political power, doctrine and wealth. Oh, if we had the bravery to do this, how great would our God’s love be shown to the world!
Click here for the Modern Celtic Wanderer Podcast
Click here for St. Brendan’s Church
Click here for books by John Gee