Building a community is a field of practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of community among individuals within a regional area or with a common interest. A wide variety of practices can be utilized for community building, ranging from simple events like potlucks and small book clubs, to larger–scale efforts such as mass festivals and building construction projects that involve volunteers rather than outside contractors. For us here at Thessaly Temenos, community within our own group is crucial to the success of any and all projects that we begin – a we are always up to something! It is sad to say that industrialization of communities and nations has created a very palpable loss of community in society. It is our believe that this loss of community is the most influential cause of the social break-down and the emergence of many harmful behaviors.
In the book ‘Community: The Structure of Belonging’, Peter Block states “The context that restores community is one of possibility, generosity, and gifts, rather than one of problem solving, fear, and retribution.” It is our belief that this way of looking at community is the most conducive to mending any cracks within the community or its leaders. It requires the citizens of a shared community to act in an authentic way by choosing to own and exercise their power rather than delegating to others what is in the best interest of that community. Focus must be inclusive for all, not just the leaders but each and every citizen of that community. While we have not always felt this way, years of experience and dealing with the drama llama that is community has shown us that this statement is true and does indeed work.
When working to build any community, beliefs are at the base of that community. A few of those beliefs are regarding ethics, values, spirituality, human rights and diversity. While building upon those beliefs, learning is necessary. This learning takes place through team learning. Mental models must be acknowledged, providing an arena for creative tension. Knowledge is gained through the collective. Verbal, non-verbal communication can be expressed through cultural, ritual, ceremony and sharing of a community’s history. Communication involves analytical intelligence. Emotional intelligence made up of self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation also are integral. Using social intelligence to understand others, provide leadership and engage in co-operation is also needed. With a sense of belonging developing, conversation, possibilities, commitment, connection and loyalty are sown. With caring, sustainability provides a breeding ground for sacrifice and unselfishness.
“Community is something we do together. It’s not just a container,” said sociologist David Brain. People working together with shared understandings and expectations are what provide a place of strong community. Sharing understanding does not necessarily mean sharing beliefs. Gypsy and I run a small spiritual supply house here at the Temenos and the majority of our customers and clients are either Catholic or Baptist – yet we are part of the same community. They know that we are not followers of their faith and we know they are not followers of ours, yet we meet somewhere in understanding so that there is no need to get into a pissing contest over whose god/s is/are greater. The understanding is that we are in possession of knowledge and skills that they do not have and which they desire to acquire. We, in turn, provide that to them and cater it to fit their own spiritual needs. So if a Hellenist came to us and consulted our oracle, we may say that Hermes has stood up to claim an offering from this individual and we would then instruct them on how that particular offering is to be given. If that same oracular consultation was for a Catholic, we would inform them that prayers to St. Anthony would be in order. There is no insult to the deity, because each is valid in their own way. Are Hermes and St. Anthony the same? By Ares’ Chains NO! But the joy lies in the fact that there is no attempts on the part of either mortal to try to push aside the beliefs or practices of the other. Now granted, this does require a great deal of study on our part so that we can correctly direct the individual to the proper divinity – but that is our contribution to the community – our effort to create a haven that is safe and spiritual for those who enter it.
Our Hellenic Revival Festival is geared to this very end. It is our contribution to the community in an effort to promote not friendship and unity, but to explore our differences and come to a better understanding of one another without the need to critique, judge or condemn anyone’s way of life, belief, worship and/or prayer. It is a community building project that we pray each day will be at least just a little successful. So please consider coming…our only requirement is that closed-minds be left at home.
Monte and Gypsy