Community & Solitude

By Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon

Both community and solitude are needed in order for the church to be the church.

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self- infatuation and despair.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I am fascinated by the power of both personal and cultural transformation that came out of the community of faith which Dietrich Bonhoeffer led. It seems to me that a person truly experiencing God in solitude becomes a source of immense cultural transformation through the body of Christ.

It makes me reflect farther back in history to the major cultural transformation that took place during the Wesleyan movement in England through what they called “class meetings” (small groups). The meetings represented a revolutionary way of living life in community and also valuing solitude.

Five penetrating questions were asked of each person at every class meeting:

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?

2. What temptations have you met with?

3. How were you delivered?

4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

Today the world is hungry for community. It is a common theme among secular as well as religious people. Ultimately it is the church that must meet this need for care and interdependence.

You, leaders of the Church, are pursuing God’s mission in various corners of the world. The stories of being the church expressed in the following pages are the outgrowth of community and solitude.

At the General Conference of The Wesleyan Church in 2008 I delivered an address entitled “Holiness and the World.” I continue to rejoice at how The Wesleyan Church is boldly being the church, being holy in the world, and pursuing God’s mission in difficult places. Because of this we are seeing lives, churches, and communities transformed. That 2008 challenge concluded:

“May it be said of The Wesleyan Church of the 21st century – they plunged into the world, restoring God’s kingdom and were kept from the evil one.”