In the late 70s and 80s, Tony and I lived in community. We didn’t all live under the same roof, but many families lived in a very small area of the East End of London, which at that time was 92 percent government housing. They were amazing days. We shared meals, tools, at times, cars. You couldn’t walk more than a few hundred yards from our home without meeting another believer. For years, I cooked for about 10 extra people every evening, never knowing who would show up for dinner.
Of course, it had its problems. Personalities clashed. People disagreed. Because of the area we lived in, people had problems of every description. If you’ve seen the PBS series, “Call the Midwife” you will understand some of the issues we faced. We were there 20 years after the TV program takes place, but many of the conditions were still the same. The area has since become gentrified. Back then, God was at work. Over the years, many of Tony’s patients became believers, and we had so many home groups in the area that it was usually possible to find someone who lived within a street or two who could follow them up. Because of the demographics, we saw miracle after miracle as people became believers, were healed and set free. It was also extremely demanding and stressful.
It was with great interest, therefore, that I read Russell Smith’s new book Geneva Two: A Parable of Christian Community and Calling. It is superbly written, and takes a fascinating approach to the subject as a fictional reporter interviews different members of the community. As each person speaks, a composite picture of the community develops with all its warts and flaws as well as its blessings. The settings, conversations and character sketches show the different personalities well.
I’m not sure whether Russell has ever lived in community–he is Senior Pastor of a Presbyterian church. The picture he paints in Geneva Two is unlike the communities I’ve lived in–it feels somewhat unrealistic, but this is probably because of the different culture. However, this is a thought-provoking book that highlights the value of community.