IT was with great surprise that I opened Called to Community to find that the first chapter was written by Fjodor Dostojevskij; an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov about how heaven is realised when we reject individualism. This turned out to be a great introduction to such a diverse collection of articles about community life.
Including authors such as C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Benedict of Nursia, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and many more, this is an excellent source of inspiration for anyone interested in Christian community and its pioneers. Its 52 brief chapters makes it a good weekly reading over a year, obviously suitable for a collective reading in, for example, a community.
The editor, Bruderhof member Charles E. Moore, restricts his own writing in the volume to the introduction, a chapter about children in community and a chapter on knowing and loving our neighbours. The topics covered by the range of authors include counter-culture, calling, obstacles, love, conflict, money, forgiveness, hospitality and revolution. The chapters are organised in four different sections: A Call to Community (alluding to the book’s title), Forming Community, Life in Community and Beyond Community.
The format of having a multitude of authors writing about related but distinct topics, prevents the book from having a clear line of thought. Moore does not explicitly tell us his reasons for putting the chapters in this order, but leaves it to our imagination to connect the dots. Some might find that more interesting, while others might find the book a bit disconnected.
For those who don’t know much about community, or haven’t considered it, this book will be eye-opening. Moore is unapologetic in stating that community is “the life Jesus wants for his people”, and promises that his book will show “why Christians should live in community”.
For those who want to start a community or plan to join one, Called to Community won’t give you the practical advice that for example David Janzen’s The Intentional Christian Community Handbook provides. In the introduction, Moore recommends the reader to also read Eberhard Arnold’s Why We Live in Community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth, works that of course are quoted extensively in Moore’s own volume. They will give you an even more solid ground to base your community on. This is not to say that Called to Community does not have its place – certainly not.
I know of no other work that collects the voices of important Christian community practitioners in this manner, and Moore’s selection is a wise one, covering relevant topics and providing radical and challenging food-for-thought in an attractive manner.