Today’s post is the last in a series by Jamie Arpin Ricci around the themes of his just published book The Cost of Community. I loved this book and would highly recommend it to you. Jamie is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighbourhood. He is planter & pastor of Little Flowers Community, in the inner city of Winnipeg. Jamie is also forming Chiara House, a new monastic community. He is a third order Franciscan with The Company of Jesus and is founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his wife Kim & son, Micah.
Little Flowers Community
When people learn that I have written a book that features our inner city church plant, Little Flowers Community, it is not uncommon for people to say something like: “Wow! It must an exceptional church.” And I always feel torn as to how I should respond. On one hand, they are right- my community is exceptional! The people are amazing, gifted, kind, generous and passionate. Yet, truth be told, my perspective on my church is about as trust worthy as my view of how exceptional my 3 year old son is. I am clearly and unapologetically biased.
However, on the other side of the coin, I know that when people say this, they often means something like, “Wow! Your church must be a happening place with vibrant ministry and cutting edge worship.” After all, if it is worthy to be a central character in a book, it must be a cut above the rest. The truth be told, one of things I love about Little Flowers Community is that- while we are exceptional in many ways- we are underwhelmingly exceptional (and at times, exceptionally underwhelming). Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking ill of our group. Rather, it is entirely what we want to be!
As I participate in the life of the community, I am often moved by the depth of relationships that have developed. What is most exceptional about that, however, is that it is not because we’ve made such relationships our primary focus. Of course we work on it a great deal, but the depth of relationship- the trueness of the community- is, instead, a by-product of our genuine attempt to live the life of Christ together. As we explore and engage Jesus’ example and teaching (especially in the Sermon on the Mount), we begin to die to our isolated, dis-integrated selves and begin to be united together as a community- specifically, as the Body of Christ.
So many of people today go to great lengths to discover their place, to find where they belong. Again and again, I see the raw longing for community that pervades our culture, even (sadly) in many parts of the church. Far too many well-intentioned churches and ministries seek to serve that need as a primary means of outreach. While much good can come of it, I genuinely believe that the truest way to the kind of community we need is through Christ- along the path that leads daily to cross and through to resurrection life together.
When people hear the title of my book -“The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom“- many presume that it will be a book that talks about the practical dynamics of building and sustaining intentional community. While books like this are much needed (and I can recommend several), that is not what you will find in my book, at least not explicitly. Instead, it is an invitation to life of shared obedience to Christ that will transform your life and draw you into genuine and devastatingly costly community. To those looking on from the outside, it might not meet the criteria of what ranks as exceptional, but it will be true, real and full of life.
I thank God daily for the community He has shaped us into.