He was so loving, loyal, forgiving and faithful a friend! Disappointed with human friendships many describe a canine companion as their ‘best friend’. But we were made for so much more!

Noticed, or read, any ‘Community Help’ books lately? Stowed-out ‘Self-Help’ sections in libraries & bookshops reflect the priority and preoccupation with ‘self realisation’ in Western culture. Don’t get me wrong, nurturing a positive relationship with your self is critical to relating well to others, but perhaps our emphasis is askew?

At Abbey Summer School in Newhaven, Edinburgh last week, the recurring theme was ‘Friendship within and with God’, the grounds for friendship & community living. We’re made in God’s image to reflect the eternal loving union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’re made for relationships: with God, with our soul, and with other people and creation (earth and creatures).

Church / Community living is God’s Plan A, not Plan B. Loving, caring relationships are what Christ died to realise in his resurrection life. Sadly our experience of church and community living can be painful, but learning to forgive and demonstrate unconditional love is major in a maturing person and community ‘in Christ’.

People keep telling me that ‘you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian’, but this misunderstands what ‘church’ is. Last week I argued for ditching ‘church’ due to confusion around its meaning. To say that ‘you don’t need to go to church’ is to say that you don’t need to meet up with and communicate with family to be a family member; it may be true, but it is to deny ‘who you truly are’: in relationship to spiritual brothers, sisters, mothers & fathers. It’s to roadblock the road to ‘growing up and maturing in God’.

As someone said, “It often takes longer to uncover people’s virtues than to spot their sins.” St Benedict included ‘Stability’ as a rule for his community living, sticking around long enough to learn to love as we’re loved. After nearly 28 years in Irvine, I feel a fresh call to friendship and building community.

CS Lewis’s friendship with JRR Tolkien further inspires me to nurture robust and faithful friendships. Were it not for Lewis and Tolkien’s probing and prodding rapport with each other, it’s said that the legendary worlds of Narnia (Lion, Witch & Wardrobe, etc) and Middle Earth (Lord of The Rings, etc) would never have reached us.

May you seek, work hard at and find faithful and fruitful friendships that neglect the worst and bring out the best in others. Yours be the many splendoured views, rich fragrant scents, creative colours and awesome unconditional love of our Greatest Friend ‘The Great I Am’ – Father, Son and Spirit. There is no room for ‘loneliness’ in God’s World!