**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 6, No. 6 June 2004
What is the relationship between family and community?
I’ve had to think of that in a number of ways in these past days. Within the next several weeks, our family of three will attend two significant family reunions. Then, the week we return from an eleven day trip, we will become homeowners again, moving into a new house that’s within walking distance of extended family.
There was a time when it was assumed that children growing up in a family would find a spouse in the local community, get married and have children, and settle down close to the family homestead. Family ties were easily maintained and grandparents and their grandchildren could have almost daily contact. Cousins grew up together and had many natural connections.
Yet, more educational and vocational opportunities and increasing mobility have made that model a distant memory for many families. Often, parents will try to see their children and grandchildren who live at a distance several times a year, but extended family relationships become a once-a-year gathering at best.
One of the family reunions we are attending is having its 100th annual reunion this year. There’s talk that this will be the last such reunion. The great-grandchildren of the original family are passing from the scenes. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are hardly aware of their roots. The other reunion involves the descendants of my grandparents and happens only once in five or six years at best.
Obviously, neither of these situations represents a primary community of support for our current nuclear family of three. Both groups contain persons who are emotionally close and supportive, but for us to have a real community of support, we have had to build other relationships as well. Often these involve relationships from work and church, especially from situations where we have worked at significant projects and ministries together and built some strong bonds.
At the same time, I sense that we are a part of a larger movement that is more intentional about drawing closer to family and nurturing family relationships. Just this week, someone told me that they were moving to an area where they would be closer to their children and grandchildren. In another case, an elderly but active widow is moving out of an area where she has always lived in order to be near her son and family.
For us, it has meant moving closer to family over the last 12 year. In 1992, we moved back to our home state and particularly close to my wife’s family. In 2000, we moved to the county, and in 2003 to the city where some of my extended family live. Now we are moving into their neighborhood! While part of this movement has been a result of providential open doors, we have also intentionally sought opportunities within an hour or two of as much of our family as possible.
Surprisingly, this combination of commitment and movement of God’s Spirit has led to a renewal of some other relationships of mutual support and encouragement and the establishment of some new relationships as well. One evidence of that is the support and encouragement we have received as we prepare for our move. Already, we have many offers of help on moving day. We feel graced and blessed by this larger extended “family” that is our community.
Family relationships, like other community-building relationships, require that touch of intentionality combined with finding and walking through the surprising open doors. It is a reminder that in the final analysis, we cannot create community; it is a gift of God. Yet, we can be open to others, embracing the unique personhood and gifts of each person we meet. And when community happens, we can certainly nurture it and allow it to grow.
So family relationships are important, whether they are based on biological ties or not. God gives us this natural community of the family, and it is from there that we reach out beyond that and grow into persons who are each truly unique and at the same time part of a strong community.
Paul D. Leichty
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