Four panelists discussed “Shaping Christian Community in a Lonely World” March 6 in the second meeting of Faith Talks, the Living Church Institute’s teaching and conversation series in Dallas.
The Rev. Matthew Burdette, a curate at Good Shepherd Church, moderated the discussion. Other panelists were Ty Albright, a real-estate broker and board member of the Cohousing Association of the United States; Jill DeTemple, associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, who spoke about her research on social capital and her experience in Latin American community development; and Abigail Woolley, a doctoral student in Christian ethics at SMU, who reflected on her experience in New Monastic communities.
The discussion ranged broadly. When reflecting on forces that combat the growth of Christian community, Burdette said that church community is often weakened by economic aspirations, as members — including teenagers — devote most of their time to the goal of financial success.
Albright described the effects of cars on urban infrastructure, such that many people rarely see their neighbors or interact with others in public.
Woolley mentioned a cultural emphasis on independence and control, which expands with technological advances.
In discussing possible solutions, DeTemple described contemporary research techniques that aim to make social capital a measure of community development.
Albright discussed cohousing designs that designate certain shared spaces, like yards and larger areas for entertaining, and shared resources like lawnmowers.
Woolley elaborated on New Monasticism, which usually focuses on justice, communal prayer, and hospitality. The group also debated the extent to which declining community may be experienced mostly by affluent residents of the Western and Northern hemispheres.
The evening began with a reception in the foyer of Canterbury House, followed by Compline in St. Alban’s Chapel. Jonathan Ryan, music director of St. Michael and All Angels Church, and St. Michael’s Compline Choir encircled a candle-lit altar.
The final Faith Talks event of the spring, “Liturgy and the Inside-Out Economy,” will feature the Rev. Nathan Jennings, and is scheduled for April 27 in Dallas.