This morning I am getting ready for the Northwest Weekend, which is an event that my congregation  has hosted for several decades. Even though I do not celebrate Christmas , and neither do my fellow brethren with whom I assemble, I can certainly understand the motives that lead us all to assemble together. I have spent a considerable amount of treasure and time over a lifetime to be with others of like mind and spirit, and often some sort of service has been involved, and often a fair amount of music and sports and lengthy conversations as well. As a person with consistent habits, I suppose that is not too difficult to imagine for those who know me well.
As someone who has written often about assembling and unity , it is intriguing for me to see how others appreciate unity, how they take a great deal of effort to plan occasions to see friends, to spend time with loved ones, to enjoy the company of others in a world that is often rather solitary and lonely. Even those among us who are not necessarily the most sociable of people often enjoy at least some time on a periodic basis of being close to others. Those of us who are greatly social find such fellowship to be necessary for life to be enjoyable or pleasant to an even greater extent. It should be noted, though, that this drive to be social and friendly, and to take advantage of the opportunities present within our civil calendars for such occasions has not always gone without criticism on a variety of grounds.
To give but one example, there are a few men I know who, or a variety of reasons, like to mock and ridicule the idea of men assembling together as men. Sometimes, for example, there is the question of why an organization would have a specific outreach to women and not to men, which is in many ways a fair criticism. Even though men are often (if not always) granted opportunities to speak and to hold leadership positions if they are active and interested, there are still matters of interest to men as men that are best dealt with for men alone, just like it is entirely understandable that women would desire to be around women at times for their own reasons, and that teens and children would like to be around other teens and children for their own reasons. Every sort of peer group desires at least some time with others who are going to understand the specifics of their situations because of their identity within that group. So long as one’s identity is not limited to small and exclusive groups to the exclusion of friendship and belonging with others of like mind and heart and spirit in other peer groups, this is not in any way a bad thing, not a cliquish attitude nor a commitment to back rubs and singing campfire songs. It should go without saying that it is ironic that men gathering together would seem manly in the context of a locker room but not in the point of view of an enjoyment of God’s creation in the wilderness. I would venture to say that it is more manly, in these of being brave and honest, in admitting a need for companionship than it is to be mocking and insulting of others who are more honest than oneself.
In a larger sense too, I enjoy weekends like this (even if they rob me of precious sleep) because of the friendships and the sociability of being around others, of spending time as part of a larger group, to recognize and get to know my brothers and sisters whose lives do not often intersect my own. The existence and popularity of such occasions, even we are divided by distance and within our own denominational background by various divisions of organization over political matters and interpretations of scripture and doctrine and history, demonstrates that many of us share the same sort of longings to be at one with others, to dwell in harmony, to enjoy each other’s company. These longings are noble ones, and if they can be mocked, they can also be the source of building a life and the bonds of friendship and community that make life less lonely and that make us less isolated and cut off from others.
After all, I know I am not the only one  who laments the isolation that results from fear and conflict. Even the existence of this blog itself was the result of such concerns, in the complex social and personal longings and pressures that have made my life more complicated than most, and made it impossible to bottle up such matters inside. Let us enjoy those times of unity and fellowship that we can find, and let us draw strength from the love and encouragement of others, even as we show our love and encouragement to others. Life is so much easier, and more pleasant, to manage when we do not have to endure it alone. We are happier and better when we share that life with others who encourage the better angels of our natures, and encourage us to the greatness and nobility of character that can make all of our lives better.
 I suppose that after living in the Portland area for a little over a year that I can call this area my congregation.
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