I've just finished reading "The Secret Lives of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in South Carolina in 1964 just after the passage of the civil rights bill, it tells the story of Lily Owens a troubled teenager who finds healing and hope in a loving community of caring women. Although not written for a christian audience, I believe it gives us a wonderful picture of how God intended for community to function and how a safe community can be an instrument to help bring healing and wholeness.
At the end of the book, the author shares some of her thoughts regarding the book. One of the questions she was asked is "How does having a sisterhood of women make a difference?" Although her answer was given regarding a community of women, it would also be the same for all communities . . . those made up of men or those made up of men and women.
Here is an excerpt from the answer she gave. Her answer in my opinion describes the essence of true community.
When women bond together in a community in such a way that "sisterhood" is created, it gives them an accepting and intimate forum to tell their stories and have them heard and validated by others. The community not only helps to heal their circumstance, but encourages them to grow into their larger destiny. This is what happened to Lily. She found a sanctuary of women where she could tell her story , and have it heard and validated --an act that allowed her not only to bear her sorrow but transform it.
What a wonderful thing it would be if we could all find such a loving caring community.