[Brother Langham is a Priest at Santa Ramona's Mission Church located off Dusty Trails road. He is a Brother of the Franciscan Order and writes articles about systemic injustice as well as the issues and challenges society faces.]
The Mission is an old Church left behind from Conquistador times and functions I imagine, in the same ways it always has in the past while in contrast with the city that it serves- the demographic of this city has changed from what it was like in the past and it will continue to fluctuate and change very likely into the future as it is in the present.
There are residents of this city who were born here and have lived here all of their lives, others who have lived here for a long time after uprooting from some other home, some have newly arrived. All hail from different cultural backgrounds, genders, orientations, professions and faiths.
The Mission keeps its doors open for all of these residents, permanent residents, lawful transplants, illegal immigrants. Our concern is to foster and nurture a sense of community within this great city.
What is community?
Community can be defined as a 'unified body of individuals', 'a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests' and 'an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location.'
During the cyclone storm we as a city, came together and our city municipal departments worked tirelessly to keep us all safe and protected.
Some of us gathered together after evacuating from our homes to ride the storm out, provided for with supplies and water in secure shelter. Local businesses opened their doors. Why? Because this city has community- we are a unified people, living together as one body. We share common interests. We live and work together, for one another's shared interest and wellbeing.
In the past society has been analyzed by some of the world's greatest thinkers, of the role it plays in people's lives.
Where would we all be without society? And how would we live otherwise? What are the alternatives?
As people we have been tribal, living in family units within our land and homes but we have moved from that toward a collective body of individuals living in communities. Cities throw people together from all backgrounds and places, they are hubs for ideas and beliefs, exchanges. We have moved from rural settings to live in big cities filled with others.
How we interact in them is telling about us. Do we engage with others, are we welcoming toward the new? Do we move beyond our own circles?
We still are primarily tribal--family comes first for a lot of people- but we also live in society because it best serves us as people to co-exist together and pool our resources altogether and work and live in the best ways for the mutual benefit of us all.
Institutions that embrace society and community are to be found in our schools - Santa Ramona College for example, our City Hall, our local government, our Police Department, our Fire department, our Clinic in South side, our Mission Church. To those looking beyond these public and civic minded institutes, where else does community lie in our city?
Some will mention the presence of particular cultural backgrounds, some will bring up those who enjoy motorcycles and cars, others might point to a North and South divide and yet others look up to the stars- the celebrities and rich who propagate in the Northern enclaves of the city. A uniform can bond you to others that are in the same line of work, yet others share a zip code or street name. A lifestyle for some dictates their circle. And yet all in the city are connected via the network we all belong to of simply being here as residents. Some of will engage, some of us will collide, some of us will discover - with others, with places in the city.
And we all contribute in different ways. Ties of business, ties of leisure and recreation, shared cultures and languages, appreciation for other cultures and languages, a meeting place for prayer and peace, seeking out the Divine.
What motivates you in your community? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what can we do to bring out the best in the spirit of our community and let it shine in the city, especially at a time when we as a city are focused on rebuilding and regathering ourselves.