Monday, April 14, 2008

Community and Culture

The recent post and comments by "anonymous" concerning Alleluia! Community in Augusta, GA, are especially enlightening. Reading the covenant of their community, I can find little that is directly problematic. The subordination of the community covenant to the primary obligations to marriage, celibacy, and church really should provide a safeguard against being abused or misled. The proverbial devil lies in the details.

Like so many of these organizations, Alleluia! (the exclamation point is part of their name) was founded and led by untrained lay persons, relying, as they thought, on the "leadings of the Holy Spirit." Members of this and many other communities learn what the Church teaches (including how to interpret Scripture) not from their bishop or parish priest, but from the community leaders. So Paul DeCelles of the POP interpreted Acts 2:42-47 not in terms of the teaching of the successors of the Apostles and the celebration of the Eucharist ("breaking of the bread") but in terms of the teaching of the coordinators, weekly community meetings, and sharing meals in households, especially on Lord's Day.

What I think is especially important is the culture that "anonymous" describes. These groups not only have formal teachings, which "anonymous" has shared, but also practical applications. So I can imagine an Alleluia! leader responding to "anonymous" that no one was ever punished for failing to attend the annual RTL march or something of that sort. And this is probably true. But that's not the point. The member knows that her behavior is not acceptable, that she will have to explain—possibly before others—why she seems unwilling to work with her headship to get her priorities in order. She will be expected to take extra steps to manifest her commitment to the life of the community.

"Love" and "commitment" become bullying words in community. You are obliged to make clear to everyone that you really do love your brothers and sisters. Single people love their brethren by freely letting go of material things and then trusting in brothers and sisters and in the Lord to meet their future needs. And the culture of the community is such that you dare not question this love. If you can't trust your head and the leaders God has raised up for us, is there anyone you will trust?

Our POP leaders always insisted that everyone was free to choose about their own lives. But although we often heard in community meetings about members' trusting in and obeying their heads, we never heard people sharing about taking unexpected and creative initiatives. The culture was one that fostered an, indeed, exalted obedience.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Alleluia Community Covenant

A previous member of Alleluia! has graciously given us the text of the Alleluia! Community Covenant so that we might comment and discuss the various implications of this covenant on the average member.

The Alleluia Community Covenant
The Lord has called us to make a solemn covenant with Him and with one another to be a people of praise. We accept the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, individually and as a people. He has destroyed our isolation and joined us together.
We commit ourselves fully subordinate to our primary covenants to marriage, celibacy and the church, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, entrusting our lives to Him and to each other in Him. We promise to build up, exhort, admonish and listen to one another; to be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness; to assist each other in seeking His perfect will in all things.
In His joy and peace, therefore, we yield our lives to Jesus; everything past, present and future and we agree to:
1. Love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. Be faithful to our commitments to community prayer, fellowship and service, seeking always the vision and the growth to which the Spirit is calling us.
3. Accept responsibility for community order.
4. Foster the growth of the community by accepting responsibility for a program of Christian initiation and formation in community life.
5. Recognize the headship of the coordinators and agree to obey, correct, and pray for them.
6. Accept our financial responsibility to the community.
7. Be held to this covenant and hold one another to it.
We promise to love one another and to call each other to holiness. We believe that this is the way God has chosen for our sanctification. We willingly ask Him to use it. We regard this as a solemn and serious commitment which we enter in good conscience, freely, and in faith.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Although I have never been a member of Alleluia! I have had experience with a family from that community. In fact, it was this experience that spawned my research into covenant communities and, thus, helped form this blog. We are thousands of miles from Augusta, Georgia and this poor family is a fish out of water as they adjust to life in the "real" world. They left unwillingly for employment reasons and are still full members of the community. I know the mother would like to return.

I would like to comment on this idea of codependence that a former Alleluia! member addressed in a comment on this blog for that is what I experienced with this family. I was, essentially, a covenant community substitute when they moved in. As I didn't know what I was dealing with and I was trying to be a good neighbor and help them to adjust, I found myself called upon again and again to do things for them. The normal boundaries between neighbors did not exist. Unfortunately, when I finally had to address the problem with them the relationship was over. I do hope, however, that the mom is adjusting to life outside of the community. I know her children want no part of that community life again and are enjoying the liberation attained by their move.

The thinking of this community pervades their thoughts and language still. A mutual friend (female) who works with the father in the RCIA program called me trying to understand the father's comments to her when she asked his opinion on a theological aspect of the RCIA formation they were teaching. He said that he could not answer her as did not want to interfere with her spiritual relationship with her husband. I could not at first understand this comment but it dawned on me that he thought she and her husband had a (or should have a) headship relationship and that her husband was her ONLY spiritual advisor and no one could substitute or augment that. This happened just a few months ago which was 2 years after their move here. So this strange thinking continues AND it seems that this community member believes we should all have that same headship relationship in any good Catholic family. Hooey!

Let us pray that their experience outside the community will open their eyes to the Truth of this community way of living. It is not liberating. It is not Truth.