coffee drinkersWho Do You Know—Really?

by Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

About a month ago I was at a party that—among many guests—included about eight friends of guests who didn’t really know one other beyond basic names.  As the hour grew late, most of these people seemed to sort of gravitate to one room of the house where the conversation began to uncomfortably lag.  So, I decided to pose a question. “What is one thing we could know about you that may surprise us?” Things were quiet and thoughtful for a moment. Then, the extroverts got things rolling.  Soon the introverts followed.  Then, along came some others who were just hearing bits and pieces of some of the stories and stopped to share theirs.
What we all learned that night was incredible. One quiet man had spent some years as a champion Midwest figure skater before injuries finally grounded him.  Another man had a harrowing tale about his time serving in the war in Afghanistan.  A couple of folks had experienced fun, unusual, close encounters with a celebrity. Someone had flown in the Goodyear Blimp.  Still another one lived in a house full of frightening supernatural activity that ultimately ended in a move to another home.
Friendships were made that night among relative strangers, all from the sharing around this one question and the conversation that followed.
Segue to the other day.  I was with a group of Episcopal friends and an interesting topic emerged.  How many people do you actually KNOW in your parish?  Thinking about some categories—people you are close friends with, casual acquaintances, those you regularly see at worship whose names you may know but not much else, and those who are completely unknown to you.  The answers were pretty shocking.  A significant portion of folks fell into the latter category.
Now, some of this has to do with parish size.  Those of you who worship in parishes with maybe 25 people will likely know everyone pretty well.  But, once attendance gets beyond that, things get a bit more amorphous. Defaulting to human nature, it can be easiest to hang with our friends or family, gravitate to those most familiar, and just lose sight of others in our midst.
Perhaps a question this Lent may be how can we know each other better right there in our own parish?  What types of simple questions could we be asking to jump start the telling of our stories?  What could parish life be like if, during Lent at coffee hour, we would all covenant simply to spend the first five minutes learning more about another person—someone we know less well—rather than immediately huddling with our closest friends?  What could we offer as a parish that would encourage us to learn more about each other?  Maybe something as simple as having a question of the day we could ask one another?
There’s no question that the more we know and are known by others the more meaningful the experience of parish life can be.  What can you and your parish do to help intentionally make that happen?  If you try something, tell us what you did and what happened because of it!
Until next month, Kathy
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