I grew up in Michigan with extended family in Wisconsin. My experience of Lutheran Christianity was shaped with a strong sense of community. Some of that experience may have come from my grandparents' church, which was founded by Danish immigrants and saw itself as a haven for those with Danish heritage (excellent pastry at coffee hour, by the way). I remember gathering together as being important for both support but also celebration.
Cape Cod is different. One might argue that the whole society is different, much more focused on the individual. Yet I think that this trend is a bit more exaggerated on the Cape. People move here and retire here because they want to be independent. They are often choosing to live away from family and friends in order to live in homes that are themselves often physically secluded from any center of community.
This trend creates a number of challenges for living as the church. First, it is hard to keep track of people. Has this person been away from church for three weeks because he is angry or hospitalized or because he just hasn't been around for three weeks? Second, it is hard to get people together, especially outside of Sunday morning. Third, the church often feels like a resource that members are using in their spiritual lives as opposed to a community that might shape those spiritual lives (As in, this week I am going to church and next week I will watch the sunset on the beach.)
In response, I am introducing a series of discipleship challenges to the congregation. The first is simple, that members congregation might say grace at every meal for the next two weeks. It is simple but it is also a reflection of a value of gratitude that should set the church apart from our culture. While our culture teaches us to be dissatisfied and seek more, we are challenged to say, "Thank you," to God for what we already have. It is my hope that by deepening our lives of discipleship in simple ways, we might also deepen the life of our community.