“Called to Community” by Mark Grizzard

Thanks to everyone involved for another successful First Baptist Summer Music Festival! It was a beautiful night full of delicious food, relaxing fellowship, and terrific music. Many thanks to Sally Tiessen for her talent and passion in planning this event, and to Bobby Courtney, Carolyn Ihnken, Earl Pilgrim, Jim Russell, Judy Tellier, and the countless number of people who have pitched in to help make this festival a thriving annual connection to the neighborhood, community, and church body.

I witnessed many memorable moments during the festival, including Doug Miller’s rockin’ tribute to Glen Campbell, the standing ovation for the Pulse of Peoria drumline, the beautiful voice of local singer-songwriter Sarah Marie Dillard, and Bobby Courtney crooning out a boy-band hit from the 90’s. My favorite moment, however, was looking from the stage and seeing the teenage members of Pulse of Peoria enjoying the festival well after their set was over, standing in line to get their faces painted and/or chatting with each other at a table.

The image of that scene has stayed with me this week. It’s so easy to believe the stereotypes we hear regularly: that kids today just want to stare at smartphones all day, that technology has fundamentally changed the way people of all ages interact with each other, that nobody gets together for in-person socializing anymore. Surely, there is evidence that as our society becomes more connected, individuals have become more isolated. A study released this year found that social isolation is on the rise and that it produces negative health effects on par with obesity and other severe health risks.

C.S. Lewis, in his allegorical book The Great Divorce, depicts hell as a sparse, ever-expanding neighborhood where people keep moving farther and farther away from each other to avoid their neighbors. Many of us have found ourselves in isolated circumstances and understand how hellish such a situation can truly be.

Seeing those drummers hanging out on our church lawn on Saturday, however, reminded me of the restorative power of community, and of our responsibility to foster it. This church provides innumerable ways to increase community in Peoria, and not only on Sunday morning. By eating at a Wednesday night dinner, serving on a board, joining a class or music group, visiting a shut-in, attending a special event, etc., we are able to build God’s kingdom through the power of fellowship. As it turns out, it’s also good for our health.

Is there someone you haven’t talked to in a while? I invite you to call them up! Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We are called to spend time with each other, and by doing this we invite the Holy Spirit to work with us and through us. What a wonderful privilege it is.