Rediscovering the power of shared experience

May. 17, 2013 @ 09:25 PM


Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as a juror for nine days in Vance County Court. As this column is not really about the court, the case, or the parties involved, I will save you from my lack of legalese. What I do want to share with you is the fascinating observation of being a juror.

A hundred some residents of this fine county gathered on that Monday afternoon as part of the selected pool. Of the hundred, a few were selected. Then we were questioned about who we are, with whom we are connected and our preconceived notions (if any) about the case, the law and the court. It took until the next morning to seat 12 jurors.

We were mostly strangers. I knew a juror through another person at church. Others were distant kin — as so many are in Vance County. Our weak connections became an opportunity for discovery as we now had new identities as a juror for this case.

The case mounted over the coming days, and we began to bond. We were jurors. We were sharing an experience where we were one in body hearing, seeing and living the same story for a few hours each day. We each made a sacrifice of time, family and work to be present. We each had our own mind; yet, we shared the experience as one.

Our breaks became time to decompress as we joked, shared personal stories, moaned and groaned — together!

Those nine days we became a little family all because we shared the same experience together.

We need more shared experiences together. We are too separated and too comfortable in that separateness. There is so much opportunity for new life in this community; yet, we prefer to play in our comfort zones, in our separateness, rather than create new experiences to share where strangers become friends that become family.

There is Biblical insight that supports this. Jesus came in his three years of ministry to bring strangers from the margins of life into a shared experience that created a new family. The 12 followed him. They prayed together. They worshipped together. They ate, ministered and journeyed together. All so they could share the experience of being with God’s son learning to love God and love neighbor. Their shared experience launched a movement we call the church.

Today, we see the renewal of the love God and love neighbor movement happening within the life of church as we break comfort zones, make new friends and family from what used to be strangers and share life together.

For the last three years I have shared life and the journey among the people of Cokesbury United Methodist Church and the larger community of Vance County and beyond. I once was a stranger coming into what was for me a strange land. We shared life together. We prayed, worshipped, did ministry, ate, played together. Friendships formed. Family was born.

The power of shared experience is we move from strangers to friends to family. We break the comfort zones and find it hard to leave our new joy.

In June I will say goodbye to the joy of this shared place. Again, I will move to a strange land and be the stranger. Again, I will begin the process of creating a shared experience whereby strangers become friends then family.

I encourage you to do the same. While maybe it is not moving from your home to a strange land far away; move away from your comfort zone. Move into the strange lands of our community so we can share life together.