It is difficult to join an established community. The new person always needs to prove themselves. The established community watches every move, interprets every action to assess whether this is a person they can trust.
The new person needs to move boldly out into the established community to make friends. It needs to be done, however, in a way that does not threaten established relationships. The new person is at the mercy of already bonded groups to see if they will let them in. They will want a relationship to form immediately, but relationships need time to develop. There is no shortcut.
Changes are emotionally tough for the established community. When a member leaves there is grief over the departure. Some of it will be relational grief, but a part of it will be operational. New people mean changes in the way the community operates.
Community life is in the forefront of my thoughts. Not because I am a new person, but I’m watching the established community of a summer camp staff interact with new campers, new junior counselors and new leaders from a congregation. The counselors may not realize it, but this is one of the most enduring lessons they will learn this summer. These dynamics of community will be played out in every job they will ever hold.
This morning’s reading was the “Laborers in the Vineyard.” The workers agree to a wage and an amount of time. Over the day, the established community welcomes new laborers to the task. At the end of the day, the first workers expect more only to receive the same as the last workers. The first workers are angry. Yet, they never considered the additional laborers actually lightened the workload and it was what they agreed upon.
The joy of community is always threatened by those who fear change, who are afraid to let new people in. The communities who welcome, who look for the blessing in each new arrival become places where joy overflows. But joy cannot flow without some sort of sacrifice. We need to give up our selfish concerns to see the blessing of others. (Mt. 20:1-16)