There’s an undeniable connection that we share as Orthodox Christians. It’s a palpable feeling of belonging, of mutual understanding, of family. Whether we first meet at summer camp, a young adult event, or some other get together, there’s a feeling of reunion - like encountering family.
But as members of the Body of Christ, we aren’t just like family, we already ARE family. We’re all knit together, connected in Christ through our baptism. As fellow members of Christ’s Body, as family, we also have a responsibility towards the rest of the Church. Whether we are married or single, our current vocation in life lends itself - in unique ways - to enriching the life of our community. Though my first blog post on the Y2AM Blog focused mainly on a challenge we single people face - “Everyone’s favorite question: When are you getting married?” – this week we should discuss ways that both married and single people can better support each other.
We worship a God who humbles Himself, who meets us where we are, who stoops to bear our burdens as He lifts us up into His Kingdom. In the light of Christ’s example, the Church is a community built on fellowship and mutual vulnerability. St Paul calls us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
So how are we called to bear one another’s burdens in the life of the Church? In what ways can each of us provide support to others in the Church?
Here are three things we can start doing right away:
- Pray for others by name and ask people to pray for you, too
The Church is a praying Body. When we pray for others, we lift them up and embrace them. It connects us in Christ, no matter how far away our loved ones may be from us. Prayer is even more intimate when we offer up specific people, by name, (and their specific needs) to the Lord.
Yet we’re not simply called to pray for our friends: if we struggle with resentment or frustration towards someone, we should pray for them. Praying for others breaks down barriers and brings us closer to them.
This works both ways, so ask people to pray for you, too. This act of vulnerability - admitting that you NEED help - opens the door to cultivating community. When one person steps out on a limb, in a spirit of openness and vulnerability, it makes it more likely for the other person to do the same. Even more fundamentally, everyone struggles, and praying for others reminds us that we cannot bear our burdens alone.
- Be of service
As we get older, I’ve noticed that people often get divided as those who have kids and those who don’t. This can put a strain on a friendship: if you’re unattached, you may find yourself wanting to spend less time with your friends who are increasingly at home, watching their kids.
Yet we can benefit a lot from friendship with couples who have children. Especially if you’re single, embrace being an honorary aunt or uncle for your friends’ children. We can be a huge help to parents by offering another set of hands: help make dinner, set the table, or pick up toys while they’re getting their kids to bed.
When we’re in church, and see a parent struggling with their child, we can offer to help out. By walking around in the narthex with their child for just a few minutes, we can give a huge gift to that parent: a few moments of serenity during the Liturgy. Many parents with young children feel nervous about coming to church because they don’t want to be a distraction.
Sometimes, a simple act or gesture that’s well within our power can make all the difference.
- Offer hospitality
Whether single or married, we can offer hospitality to others in our home. This could mean hosting get-togethers for food and fellowship, or it might mean opening one’s house to friends who are visiting from out of town. Creating a space where people feel welcomed and at home cultivates community and family.
Hospitality helps us get out of ourselves by giving to others. It breaks down boundaries by welcoming others in.
The common thread these three things share is vulnerability and openness. “One Christian is no Christian,” as an ancient saying goes. We cannot be Christians alone; we can only be Christians in community. And we cannot build true community if we only passively gather once a week. A Church is built on action and openness: opening our hearts, opening our homes, and opening our arms to those in need. This creates the space in which we can be vulnerable, where we discover that each of us is perfectly imperfect and in need of our Savior and the support of the Church.
How many of these three points, if any, do we work on? This kind of self-examination is important if we want to actively be the Church. All that's left, then, is the willingness to take action.
And are you willing to start right now?