At Duke Divinity School, the word “community” is a staple in the vocabulary of theologians-in-training. Ethics professors Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells form seminarians with wisdom of the gathered and scattered community. As a graduate of Duke Divinity and one formed by their writing and teaching, I have experienced that community is indeed a word that extends well beyond the degree program.
Recent news surrounding the fate of Glen Lennox cottages in Chapel Hill has prompted many citizens to think about their own notions of community and home. In the months since Grubb Properties announced their intention to develop Glen Lennox cottages in Chapel Hill, I have discovered the ever-growing meaning of the word for myself and many.
My first reaction is primitive and selfish: “Where will I live in Chapel Hill that’s affordable?” Now on to thinking beyond myself: “Where will the other 439 households find affordable housing?” In some portions of the United States, this number of households constituents an incorporated town. For example, Dana, a small town in Western Indiana that I’ve written about before has 252 households according to the 2000 Census.
Theologically, I know that community is about the gathered people, and not bricks and mortar. As a theologian, I struggle with this development on many levels: personal, sociological, and even Biblical (think the displacement of peoples in the Bible!). While the Christian sense of community suggests that we are not to be tied to material things (or places) of this world, I still think that these precious Glen Lennox bricks have fostered a community spirit in Chapel Hill unlike any other.
Still, I’m amazed that in a world where we are always plugged in, claiming we are lonely and longing for community, we tear down well-established single story communities rich with history, green space, and side streets (all conducive to relationship building), to produce larger, shiny, mixed-use, multi-story buildings for the sake of convenience and progress.
No matter what the outcome, I am confident that the process will be parsed out thoroughly by all of the interested parties, and that the spirit of this community will live on. I am thankful for the opportunity and privilege of being a part the Glen Lennox Community.
Photo credit: http://www.saveglenlennox.org/
© 2008 J. Dana Trent