Co-Creation. I hear God’s voice above the clamor of the dominant culture. God asks me to question its assumptions and beliefs. As a servant leader I align my life with God’s dream and engage with others to be co-creative instruments of justice and peace.
The clamor of our dominant culture is constantly pushing us to individualism. Our individualistic culture dominates the media, politics, education, and our general cultural mores. No matter where we look the message we are being sold is that we can and should be able to take care of ourselves with no help from others. We are even told that we can “save” or “fix” the world single handedly. In my observations this is one of the reasons so many people who are in churches and nonprofits get “burned out” so easily. While some organizations are better than others it seems the common theme is to affirm the individualistic nature of our culture. By doing this we create an environment in which employees and churchgoers assume that they can improve their community single handedly and when they can’t our culture tells them they have failed. Not only does our culture sell us the message that we can save the world but that we can also save ourselves. We are told that all of the tools to make ourselves the best we can be are within our reach and if we are not achieving the goal that society has set for us then we are failures.
While these individualistic messages are being screamed at me from every side I hear God’s still small voice whisper of truth and a better way to live. The Church of the Saviour was one of those quiet messages that “rose above the clamor of the dominant culture,” whispering of a better way to live. The Church of the Saviour’s structure of Mission Groups seems to me to be a perfect example of “engaging others to be co-creative instruments of justice and peace”. Instead of seeing a need in the community and taking on all the responsibility and pressure to ensure success in your efforts to make a difference, Mission Groups put the emphasis on working together with others who also see the same need. Something that stood out to me about the Mission Groups is that you had no control over who else within the Church of the Saviour may join your Mission Group. God alone had a hand in placing that call on each individual’s heart. This relinquishing of control is yet another way that the Church of the Saviour is pushing against the dominant cultural. Instead of following the message that you should only work and live with others who are like you the Church of the Saviour lives into the message that while the Body of Christ is one it is made up of many parts. God’s dream for our world is not one of uniformity but one of diversity.
The most obvious whisper in my life currently is intentional community. This whisper is usually more of a loud roar since I am in the midst of it daily. Living in community I am challenged to acknowledge our culture’s messages and actively act in opposition. The day I moved into our home on Greene Street I wove my life together with my housemates lives. No longer do I solely care for my own needs as they arise. I must work together with my housemates to create a happy and healthy home. Even in the smallest of decisions I must put my personal preferences aside and listen to the thoughts and opinions of my housemates and come to a decision based on what is best for our micro community as well as the macro community. Intentional community forces you to deny the cultural message of individualism. Instead of being independent you are interdependent on those in your community. The beauty of intentional community is that you have a group of people who are committed to walk alongside you and encourage you towards a life that reflects God’s dream.
The most important element of co-creation that is evident in all of these whispers is the co-creative relationship we have with God. We cannot save the world by ourselves, we need others to work with us but more importantly we need God’s presence and action. Without God we cannot heal the larger culture we can only place band-aids on huge gaping wounds. Just as we cannot save the world by ourselves we also cannot save ourselves. Our culture presents us with a goal that we must attempt to achieve in order to be successful and have worth. God offers something much better for our lives, rather than a life spent striving for an unattainable ever-changing goal God offers a relationship in which you are accepted and loved where you are. Just as I can no longer be independent within my community I cannot be independent from God. Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” I must rely on God to sustain me, guide me, accept me, and love me.
While at times it does not seem that these whispers are raising above the clamor I must remember to listen more attentively to the ways in which God’s voice is present in our world and attend to the ways in which I can be co-creative with both God and others in order to bring God’s dream for our world to fruition.
–Helen Kinser is working at StepUp Durham this year. She enjoys running, rock climbing and yoga.