| Rev. Carolyn Lesmeister |

When I was younger, finding community seemed easy. As a child, I simply had to go into the backyard and yell the names of the neighborhood kids until someone came out to play. School, sports, and extracurricular activities provided plenty of opportunities to bond with others over shared experiences, goals, and triumphs or losses.

I spent most of my 20s in similarly structured spaces – college, volunteer corps, and grad school – where proximity to people with common interests was something that could be taken for granted. Add in the fact that most of us lived in practically identical housing, and there wasn’t much to worry about as far as what other people would think of my dorm room or apartment.

Exposure to so many people made it easy to find friends, and if I wanted company for a meal, an event, or pretty much anything, I could always find someone who would enthusiastically join me. When some students would graduate, new ones would move in, and my circle of friends naturally evolved to accommodate these changes.

Now, however, community seems a lot more elusive....

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| Anne Williamson |

Invitation is tough. It involves risk, courage, vulnerability… Will they hear and like my ideas? Will he say, “Yes”? Can I communicate my vision? Am I a good leader? Appreciated member of the team? Does she value my friendship like I value hers? Does he value me? Will they care as much as I do? Will they be fair? Will she show up? Gladly? Lovingly?

Often, these are questions to which we’re not sure we want the answers. Past experiences, current insecurities, ignorance, all make us wary of extending that invitation, of extending ourselves. It’s far easier and much safer simply not to ask. 

For all we risk in invitation, though, the alternative is actually far riskier....

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| Chase Tibbs |

You can already feel the tension. The tug is coming from all sides. You feel you have to commit to one or the other. The middle ground is as grey as can be. And along with the wins, there are the losses that come with how you approach the conversations. On the one hand, if you don’t bring up conversation regarding the latest situation/news, aren’t you participating in the “quietness” around the current issue? On the other hand, if you bring up conversation on the current news, you may be risking your relationships because of your differing opinions and perspectives on said latest situation/news.

We live in a world where disagreeing is not tolerated. Multiple perspectives cannot find a harmonious community. Diversity in theologies and ideologies is unable to sit at the same table.

If only there was a handbook for conversation around the holidays when sitting with family and friends with whom we disagree...

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