Last Sunday my family and I were invited to a graduation party for Moses Mwaura. Moses and his family are from Kenya and are “all in” at the Living Stones Church (we may send them back to form Living Stones Church Kenya). He just completed a Master’s Degree and to celebrate, he was throwing a party. Loved it. Parallels to what community looked like in early Christianity were coming to mind:
- There is a Kenyan community in South Bend that exists within a larger community (they would quickly identify as “aliens & strangers” in the context of American culture and society).
- Their community gathering very much encouraged and supported Kenyan identity.
- They ate Kenyan food (table fellowship), which by the way was delicious…and included a tradition BBQ goat for any good Kenyan celebration. Moses was kind enough to help me in the food line so I knew what it was that I was about to eat.
- Time is subservient to relationship. The invitation said 3-6 p.m. It didn’t get started until 5:00 p.m. It starts when everyone arrives.
- Story telling…especially to the children was essential in shaping identity and cultural expectations. The adults addressed the children and encouraged them through personal narrative in the following: staying in school, the importance of education, working hard, sacrifice, the role of women in the home and society, being debt free, family, honoring and celebrating the achievements of others, honest employment, and the importance of self-sufficiency.
Examples of achievement were highly-valued (including Moses’ in whom we were all there to honor). They were used as illustrations as to what children can become. In the stories included Barack Obama whose father was a Kenyan. There is great ownership in the Kenyan community of Barack Obama as the President of the United States. The children were encouraged to dream as big as they want…and with hard work, discipline, and community…they could achieve it.
I wonder how many of these elements would have been present (and seen as absolutely essential and vital) to the earliest Christian community as they attempted to live as authentic followers of Jesus in the midst of a broader culture, and if that is why they were encouraged to not “forsake gathering together.” (Hebrews 10:25)