In many of our parishes and dioceses where the Small Christian Communities have been successfully promoted in the AMECEA countries, there is a strong sense of belonging/bonding to the Church, responding with new dynamisms of being disciples and witnessing to greatest commandment of loving God and neighbor. In these communities, the SCCs have become places where Christians live, experience, witness and show care of the neighbourhood environment. This neighbourhood environment includes: the life of faith in the parish community, the fellowship with people who live in the neighbourhood, the response to the common socio-economic-cultural need and attention to what is affecting their daily life.
Many of our SCCs have become very vibrant and promote an active participation of all their members. There is a good sense collaborative ministry between the ordained ministers in the parishes. On the other hand, we also have some SCCs which were once vibrant but their light is glowing deemly by the day. The question we may ask ourselves is, “What makes some of the SCCs Vibrant?” I will reflect on some hints that would be helpful to keep our SCCs dynamic, vibrant and productive with fruits of the Holy Spirit.
- Celebration of Life: The SCCs can be vibrant if they are not divorced from the actual life and context of its members. As we establish these SCCs, it is important to keep in mind that they are the incarnation of the Church of the New Testament at the most grassroot level of the community, where the ordinary life of the people takes place. The AMECEA Bishops during the 1979 Plenary Assembly said, “The SCCs are supposed to be linked to the traditional community structure in villages, family units, township compounds and neighbourhood where life is received, shared and nurtured in common.” The African traditional society has always held that, it is in these communities where life is received and enhanced, the cultural values are passed on, the common challenges are addressed and bonds of relationships are strengthened. Those SCCs that live, experience and attend to the actual daily needs of the members will always be dynamic because, “like Christ, the Church becomes incarnate in the life of the people.”
- Communion of the Family of God: The SCCs is supposed to be a communion (Koinonia) of fellowship and friendship among the members of the particular community. When the members, having been baptised and endowed with diverse gifts, are made to feel they are part of this fellowship they will be more willing to do their part. Every effort ought to be made to build a fellowship among member of different families, ethnic groupings, status and roles in society. In those communities where all barriers have been broken down, there grows a communion of faith, hope and love that is supposed to be at the heart of the Church. In such a community, members will experience the love of God and concern for those who are in the neighbourhood, and become active.
- Communion of Worship and Prayer: When members of the SCCs are helped
to put prayer and worship at the centre of their way of life and meetings, they become very dynamic. It is through prayer, sacramental life and devotion that people express their faith in God and consolidate the bonds of fellowship with one another. I have seen in some parishes where the SCCs animate the celebration of liturgy and the sacraments. During their SCC meeting, they are guided to prepare hymns, readings, petitions for at Mass, offering and other responsibilities. At the liturgical celebration, they are actively involved and recognize their role as fully part of the celebration. Such communities look at themselves as a fellowship and place of an encounter with God and become conscious that God continues to reveal himself to them through a life of prayer. Such communities become very vibrant and dynamic because they pay attention to the animating power of the Word of God and the love of the Spirit of God in their lives.
- The Communion Nourished by the Word of God: Most SCCs meet once a week and together reflect on the selected scripture readings. Following the steps of reflection and discussion, the Word of God remains as the centre of their meetings. They read, reflect, share, discuss and resolve to put the Word of God into practice.
The Word of God becomes for them the foundation on which to build the community life and the commitment of the members to the service of one another and of God. To the members, the Word of God gives support and vigor to their life, it becomes a real confirmation of faith, food for the soul and the fount of spiritual life. It challenges them to live the love of God and of neighbour within the context of the SCC. Those communities that are striving to build their fellowship on the Word of God remain very vibrant and dynamic.
- The Communion that Nurtures Ministries and Charisms: The SCCs are the most basic level of being Church whose mission is to evengelize, to proclaim the Word of God, to share the sacramental life and to assume ministries for the lay faithul. In the SCCs, the lay faithful live, experience and express their share of the priesthood of Christ as prophet, king and priest. Some of them are catechists, prayer leaders, care-givers who visit the sick, providing charitable support to the needy and through some extra-ordinary ministry in the community. It is through these minitries that the members of the SCCs become more conscious of their role and share in the life, not only of their parish, but of the entire Church.
In those SCCs where members have been helped to realise and appreciate their responsibilities, we see them very actively involved in the various ministries and also in stewardship for the building of the Body of Christ. Therefore, purposeful nurturing of ministries at the level of Small Christian Communities will make the entire Parish or Diocese very vibrant, self-reliant and self-ministering. In this way the SCCs become a diakonia of service, care and stewardship among the people by being attentive to the social needs of the people.ConclusionI will end by making reference to the teachings of Bishop Patrick Kalilombe who stated that, The SCC is the smallest cell of the Church through which the Universal Church lives and breathes. It is the incarnation of the Church of the New Testament at the most basic level of people’s lives. Through the SCCs, the Church, like Christ, becomes incarnated in the life of the people. She is led by the local people, meets and answers local needs and problems, and finds within herself resources needed for her life. This must be our goal if the SCCs in our parishes are to be dynamic, vibrant, self-reliant and self-ministering.Read:Patrick Kalilombe (Bishop), Biblical Background of Christian Communities”, AFER 1980, p. 12.Pius Rutechura, Paper presentation on Small Christian Communities in AMECEA Region, Germany Tubingen Conference, 17th – 20 January, 2013.