I wrote this reflection in July, a month after returning to the east coast from California, and only a few weeks before moving to Johannesburg, South Africa.

It’s hard to be home. Not physically in Virginia, or driving down Richmond streets, or sitting in my kitchen. No, it’s hard to be among those who have known and loved me so well for so long.

The past three months have been almost unbearably painful for me personally, in the context of my family life. And to return home from California, to worship at River Road during my first Sunday on the east coast, hurt. Why?

Because, thank God, the notion of Community is tied up in the notion of shared experience. Not simply a knowing glance or embrace, but truly, our raw edges rubbing up against the raw edges of those we love. Wounds on wounds, with Christ the skilled surgeon binding our bleeding parts up (and together). In Community, we magnify one another, so in moments of pain, it is truly excruciating. Sharing one another’s burdens does not lessen the load; instead, it seems to distribute the load so that all are engaged in the struggle.

And I am so grateful for that, because the theory goes for joy and celebration, too. Community is a force multiplier and a reminder that the body of Christ, when it works as it should, feels for and with its members.

I thank God for River Road Church, Baptist, and pray that, before all else, we will set ourselves to the task (yes, the deliberate act) of compassion- “to suffer with”- for our own members and for all the world.

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you, too. ”
-Frederick Buechner

by Bailey Thomson