Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry:  Community

Monday’s Meditation –  ‘Moving from solitude to community to ministry’. by Henri Nouwen.

When we read the story of Jesus in Luke 6:12-19 we can see the way that Jesus did ministry.

  • At night –  Solitude with God
  • Morning – Second community with others
  • Afternoon – Third ministry with his companions

Today on Sunday Everyday we will be looking at Community.

This is taken from an article published in the Leadership Journal by Henri Nouwen.

Copywrite Henri Nouwen Spring 1995.

It’s in the hub, in that communion with God, that we discover the call to community.  It’s remarkable that solitude always calls us to community.  In solitude  you realise you’re part of a human family and that you want to lift something together.


By Community, I don’t mean formal communities, I mean families, friends, parishes, twelve-step programs, prayer groups.  Community is not an organization; community is a way of living; you gather around you people with whom you want to proclaim the truth that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God.

Community is not easy.  Somebody once said, “Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives”.  In Jesus community of twelve apostles, the last name was that of someone who was going to betray him.  That person is always in your community somewhere; in the eyes of others, you might be that person.

Why is it so important that solitude come before community?  If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we’re going to expect someone in the community to make us fee that way.  They cannot.  We’ll expect someone to give us that perfect unconditional love.  But community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness:  “Im so lonely and you’re so lonely”.  It’s solitude grabbing onto solitude:  “I am the beloved; you are the beloved; together we can build a home.”

Sometimes you are close and that’s wonderful.  Sometimes you dont feel much love, and that’s hard.  but we can be faithful.  We can build a home together and create space for God and for the children of God.

Within the discipline of community are the discipline of forgiveness and celebration.  Forgiveness and celebration are what make community, whether a marriage, a friendship, or any other form of community.

What is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is to allow the other person not to be God.  forgiveness says, “I  know you love me, but you don’t have to love me unconditionally, because no human being can do that.”

We all have wounds.  We are all in so much pain.  It’s precisely this feeling of loneliness that lurks behind all our successes, that feeling of uselessness that hides under all the praise, that feeling of meaninglessness even when people was we are fantastic – that is what makes us sometimes grab onto people and expect from them an affection and love that they cannot give.


If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we become a demon.  We say, “Love me!” and before you know it we become violent and demanding and manipulative.

It’s so important that we keep forgiving one another – not once in a while, but every moment of life.   Before you have had your breakfast, you have already had at least three opportunities to forgive people, because your mind is already wondering, What will they thing about me?  What will he or she do?  How will they use me?

To forgive other people for being able to give you only a little love – thats hard discipline.  To keep asking others for forgiveness because you can give only a little love – that’s hard discipline too.

It hurts to say to your children, to your wife or your husband, to your friends, that you cannot give them all that you would like to give.  Still, what is where community starts to be created, when we come together in a forgiving and undemanding way.

This is where celebration, the second discipline of community comes in.  If you can forgive that another person cannot give you what only God can give, then you can celebrate that person’s gift.  Then you can see the love that person is giving yu as a reflection of Gods’ great unconditional love.  “Love one another because I have loved you”.  When we have known that first love, we can see the love that comes to us from people as the reflection of that.  We can celebrate that and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful”.

With forgiveness and celebration, community becomes the place where we call forth the gifts of other people, lift them up, and say, “You are the beloved daughter and the beloved son”.

Girl praying

To celebrate another person’s gift doesn’t mean giving each other little compliments…its to see each other as a person who can smile, and accept each other’s humanity.  A person who in the eyes of others is broken suddenly is full of life, because you discover your own broken through them.

I have learned that my real gifts are not that I write books or that I went to universities.

My real gifts are discovered by those who know me so well they cannot be impressed any more by this other stuff.  Once in a while they say, “I have good advice: Why don’t you read some of your own books?”

There is healing in being known in my vulnerability and impatience and weakness.  Suddenly I realise that Henri is a good person also in the eyes of people who don’t read books and who don’t care about success.  These people can forgive me constantly for the little egocentric gestures and behaviours that are always there.

Henri Nouwen.

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Recommended Reading:  Just click the book to take you to Amazon

Henri Nouwen Life of the Beloved

Henri Nouwen Wounded Healer

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