Once upon a time, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth met in each other’s houses, or outside, or in the catacombs. The sang and prayed and told amazing stories of the man from Galilee and the community that gathered around him. They shared good food and generously gave of their gifts, talents and resources to the community. They took care of each other through thick and thin. They called their group ekklesia — the gathering of the called out ones. They had an intense vision of living as brothers and sisters, and their ekklesia was God’s kingdom on earth.
Scant 200 years later, ekklesia has become church. Church as building, church as institution. Church as property. And soon: church as the arm of worldly power.
Fast forward another 1500 years. All Europe is shocked to find out, now that Bibles are translated into the vernacular, that ekklesia — properly translated — means simply a gathering, an assembly, a community. Some inspired rebels – Anabaptists, Quakers and others – recreate such communities here and there.
But it makes no difference to most. When the intentional communitarians get going at the end of the 20th century, acquiring property is foremost on their minds. Fancying themselves radicals, they nevertheless spend most of their energies on buying, developing, building, developing… and very little on growing radically deep relationships — on growing love for each other, and love for the earth.