Editor’s note: DCSC volunteer Kate Keeley reflects on a recent retreat with her fellow year-long volunteers and the ways this experience has opened her heart to a new way of understanding community life. 

For a long time, I thought I understood what it meant to be in community. I come from multiple tight-knit communities: a huge family that values being together, a church where I spent most of childhood, and multiple friendships that have remained over the years. 

But there is a difference between having a community, and desiring to be in community. During this twenty-second year of my small life, I think I’m beginning to understand what this means…and it’s all thanks to a moment that happened over retreat with my fellow DCSC members.

Our retreat was unlike any other I had ever been on – no strict schedule, at an AirBNB, and with six other people I have already been living in community with for the past six months. We decided as a group to turn off our phones for the weekend. This decision, along with the activities planned and the loosened schedule, made for a beautiful time of allowing ourselves to just be with one another in a shared space. We played football, we explored, we prayed, we laughed, we cried. And for most people, this would have been more than enough. 

But one afternoon, as our retreat leader led a session on community, we all began to share how we longed for more. We had fallen into a pattern at home – of watching movies when we were bored rather than talking to each other… of putting prayer on the back burner because we were too busy and tired… of not pushing each other to grow because we didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable…

How easy it is to fall into habits that do not deepen our relationships with each other, with the world, with ourselves, and with God. What’s difficult is deciding to change these habits. So I talked to my community about it, thinking I would be the only one who had realized our bad habits. And to my pleasant surprise, I was greeted with understanding and agreement from everyone else in my community.

That’s when it hit me: there is a difference between having a community and desiring to be in community. It is so easy to get caught up in the same habits that don’t challenge you. But instead of taking the easy way, we spent hours expressing what we were dissatisfied with in our community: habits we wanted to improve on, change, end, and begin. 

At the end of our discussion, we all held hands, and took a moment to each say a prayer aloud. At that moment, I think we all began to realize how what we had just done was so rare. I don’t think it’s rare for members of a community to yearn for more. I’ve been in many communities where I wanted more from it, but didn’t know what to say. What’s rare is that we all felt pushed to express this yearning and furthermore, wanted to do something about it. 

I love my community because I know that they choose to be with me just as I choose to be with them. We are intentional with our love for one another and desire to grow as one. I am constantly blown away by the perfect timing of God, and I have a peaceful heart knowing that He timed this retreat and this community quite perfectly.

Reflection: How can you challenge yourself and your community to live and love one another more deeply?