Reading from my old friend, Wendell Berry, these days. The collection of short stories, chronologically ordered around his other novels, called That Distant Land, is as good as anything else I've read of his and I'm only halfway through. I (as well as others) have commented on Berry's use of community as a main theme. Every story centers around a geographical place in time, spacing itself from the greater world while at the same time being influenced by the greater world outside of Port William, Hargrove, etc. The first crisis moment of Hannah Coulter is actually a good example of this.

However, what is sometimes ignored is the next level of micro-story, which are the people and personalities themselves. Yes, community is central but Berry is careful to make sure his people are not just drones, mindlessly wandering into the single file line of community. In the pendulum swing that I've been on, and even advocated, I'm afraid we've adopted a community-only stance (which is similar to Old Testament thought) instead of an individuals-in-community stance (which seems to be the ethics/ecclesiology of the New Testament) in our thinking and talking about the church.

I'm thinking specifically about the fact that Christ called individuals in His role and activity as the Savior of the world. Is it possible that revolution does not begin with getting community right, but becoming an individual disposed to community living out the values of discipleship? Or, in Berry terms, is someone like Nathan Coulter who he is because he lives in Port William or does Port William take its cue from its residents?

Living in a rural community, I have to say it's the individuals that give the community its life and character, and only in percentages is it the community itself that creates the individuals. Could it be that the revolution and renovation of the church in America today is not going to come through the abandonment of appealing to individual minds and hearts, but through that appeal and to the greater world waiting?

listening: Ray Lamontagne, "Hold you in my arms"

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