I began reports on Jo Gilbert’s workshop on Christian Community with her explanation of Koinonia. She had talked about how communion is rooted in the life of the Trinity and is our deepest vocation, as individuals and for the Church.

She went on to look at how this communion, this koinonia comes out of experience of the Risen Christ, which is grounded in the Spirit. The coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is the moment that God gives birth to the Church.

Jo compared the Day of Pentecost with the story of the Tower of Babel. The building of the Tower came out of human pride. The consequences are individualism and a fragmentation for the Human family. The consequence is also a break down of communication. Different languages prevent communication. The Day of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit heals these divisions, uniting humanity through self-giving. The gift of tongues is a sign that what has been broken apart has been brought back together. The Trinity brought humanity back together by drawing them back into the Life of the Trinity through the Incarnation and coming of the Spirit.

If we want to live in unity with others we must live in God’s Spirit, as this is the source of the unity we are looking for. On the day of Pentecost we see that in the act of praying together, the disciples are opened to the movement of the Spirit. In order to be builders of the Church, they had to receive and wait upon God in prayer.

This brought us to the missionary dimension of communion. Living out the reality of being in Christ needs visible forms. Communion becomes mission, when living in the Spirit so communion begets communion. It becomes a sign in itself and so radiates the gospel to those around us. We become able to draw others into communion.

One of the ways this has been seen in recent time is the emergence of New Ecclesial Communities, starting in Europe after the war. They brought new life to family and parish. They spread all over the world but never took off in England. Jo didn’t have any clear answers about why but mused that maybe it was something to do with the way we do community. Why might our culture not embrace community life such as New Ecclesial Communities? She asked “Do we need to challenge ourselves with the question ‘Do I value my autonomy too much?’” This led to a discussion within the group, elements of which I will look at another time.