Small Christian Community, St. Jericho Parish (Nairobi)

Part I

On the thirteenth of January, I attended the Small Christian Community meeting of the Youth at St. Joseph Parish, Jericho, where I am doing my pastoral work. They normally meet on Fridays at 6:30 pm after the daily evening mass of the parish. The group is made of young people mostly members of the choirs of the parish, who felt the thirst for the word of God in their life. Some became members because for various reasons, they have no chance of attending their normal Small Christian Communities; others joined it as their second SCC because this is only for the youth. These young people form their own Small Christian Community where they meet every week as their way of experiencing SCC life as a new way of being church. But being members of this Small Christian Community does not prevent some of them from attending the Small Christian Community of their locality. Since they are from various places, they always meet in the church compound.

SEE: The number of the participants on the day that I visited them was 17 (six men and eleven women). On that day, I went with the parish priest who newly came to the parish and was doing his first visit to each group of the parish. But they were not aware that the parish priest was coming to their Small Christian Community meeting. They used both English and Kiswahili for all their activities. Surprising enough, that day, they chose special biblical readings for their gathering. They started the Small Christian Community meeting with songs of praise and worship. This took them about fifteen minutes. Then, began the section for bible sharing which took about thirty minutes. I can’t remember the number of those who shared. Even their secretary did not record their number. I noticed that most of them shared the word of God. During the section for the prayer of the faithful; only five of them prayed for various intentions. After the section for petitions, they now discuss about other members that were absent. Various reasons were mentioned as to justify their absence. One of the absent members lost her mother. In regards of this member who is mourning, each member proposed what he or she was to bring on the following Sunday when they will go to visit her. Some other sharings were related to some members who were jobless and who got a job or were to go for an interview the next week. Other programs such recollection day at komashrine (in two weeks time) and visits were made. After this, I (deacon) and the parish priest were asked to talk. The meeting ended with a concluding prayer (thanksgiving and our Father) by one of the lay members and the final blessing from me.

JUDGE: I really loved their meetings despite the fact that their many things that they had to look into: they did not begin the Small Christian Community meeting with silence, there was no time for silence in between the readings, the chairperson found it difficult to coordinate the session for proposition of gift because he forgot the normal procedure of the group and he had to be reminded by a member. They did very well for taking the reading only in English since they all understand English and allowing everyone to share in either both languages. About the readings, we (I and the parish priest) encouraged them to be always using the following Sunday reading. I personally, encouraged them to always make relevant the bible sharing to their personal life as young people.

ACT: Decisions were made about meeting after the third mass on Sunday in order to visit the girl who lost her mother, praying for their members who are still jobless, for those who were to go for job interview and those waiting for their results. It was also decided that either I or the parish priest will go with them for the recollection at komashrine. The parish priest promised to attend their SCC from time to time.

Part II: The use of Bible at Small Christian Community meeting

In the letter to the Hebrews we read: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Heb 1:1-2 NRS). These words of the author of Hebrews are still relevant to us whenever we meet for our Small Christian Community gatherings. Long ago God has chosen many and various ways to make himself known to us. The word of God as proclaimed word from the Bible is God himself speaking in our lives in many and various ways. The word of God is full of grace and it gives life to the hearers. The revealed word God, in all its fullness, Jesus Christ is what gathers, builds unity and the real expression of God in words to the members of Small Christian Communities. When we gather to read, to meditate on, to share and to pray the Word of God during our Small Christian Community gathering, we are nourished, enlightened and strengthened. Therefore, the Word of God is the soul of the church as a whole and of Small Christian Communities as the new way of being church, the neighborhood church.

Right from the time of the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu which first called on Catholics to have greater knowledge of and love for the word of God (DAS 51), to the Second Vatican Council which states that “in the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting source of spiritual life” (DV 21), the church has given great value to sharing of the Word of God and relating its message to the daily lives of the her members.

One of the occasions which give Catholics great opportunity to have access to the Word of God as Christian family is the gathering of Small Christian Community, the neighborhood church. Through Small Christian Communities, the church responds to her teaching which states that Christians must “go gladly to the sacred text itself, whether in the sacred liturgy, which is full of the divine words, or in devout reading, or in such suitable exercises and various other helps which, with the approval and guidance of the pastors of the Church, are happily spreading everywhere” (D V 25). It is obvious that one of those other helps which the document talks about is the Small Christian Community gathering. We can therefore say that during the sharing of the Word of God at the prayerful Small Christian Community gathering, God “meets His children with great love and speaks with them” (D V 21).

The Word of God plays great role at Small Christian Community gatherings. Its role is to point the members of Small Christian Communities to Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God; its aim is to direct the members to Christ who can save and understand their daily struggles better. It is the same Word of God that helps in revealing to the hearers their condition of life which is either the Christian pilgrim state of sin or the pilgrim state of grace. This revelation helps in preparing the pilgrim church for the reality of the eternal beatification. The Word of God highlights the need of humanity for a Savior, Jesus Christ, a friend who becomes a member of the Small Christian Community for he says “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mat 18:20 NRS). The Word of God at Small Christian Community is the written revelation of God’s dream of fellowship with mankind, and it tells the hearers how to develop a lively relationship with God. The Word of God makes the Small Christian Communities means for building communion with neighbors and God.

At Small Christian Community, the shared Word of God is valuable for instruction, reproof, edification, and strengthening the faith of the participants. It helps the members of SCC from their childhood to know the sacred writings which instruct them for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. 2Tm 3:15 NRS). For St. Paul, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2Tm 3:16-17 NRS).

The use of the Word of God at Small Christian Community is an expression of a new way of being herald of the gospel in the church. The fact that each member at the gathering, one-by-one, shares his or her daily joys, sorrows, feelings and experiences in the light of the Gospel makes each member an evangelizer, an apostle of the gospel of Christ. It was for the same purpose that St. Paul urges Timothy to “proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement — but do all with patience and with care to instruct” (2Tm 4:2 NJB). Through the proclamation and sharing of the Word of God at SCC, Christian becomes their own preachers by making their preaching relevant to their being.

The Word of God as the central element of SCC fosters good Sunday liturgical celebration. It is either in the preparation, in normal circumstances, or in continuation of the Paschal mystery celebrated on Sunday. In this sense it can be regarded as a perpetuation of the liturgical mysteries of each season in the daily life of the faithful or as a response to the dismissal, “Go forth, the mass is ended,” of the liturgical celebration. Therefore, taking Sunday reading at SCC gives a missionary and ecclesial dimension to the gathering.

There are some difficulties attached to the reading and sharing of the Word of God at Small Christian Community meetings. Firstly, not knowing how to read leaves some members of Small Christian Communities idle. That is why a spirit of generosity and service is to be fostered among members of the same Small Christian Community. To these members who do not know how to read, the Word of God can still be read to them or translated to them in vernacular. This will help every member to fully participate in the SCC meeting. Secondly, faith sharing and life sharing can also become an obstacle to the fulfillment of the goal of Small Christian Community as a new way of being church. Some do not share because they are afraid that their sharing might become an object of gossips; others refuse to share for lack of scriptural knowledge and understanding. If prophet Hosea is to address this issue today, he will tell priests that his people perish for lack of knowledge since priests have rejected knowledge, and their duty of helping the faithful to grasp the Word of God, the teaching of God (cf. Hos 4:5-6 NJB). Sharing the Word of God gives the faithful, members of Small ChristianS Communities, an opportunity to answer and exercise the common priesthood.

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