A review of Charles E. Moore’s Called to Community (Plough Publishing, 2016).
I had not looked at the book cover closely enough when I opened Called to Community to realise what kind of authors it had, so it was with great surprise I turned to the first chapter and saw that it was written by Fjodor Dostojevskij! Yes, an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov about how heaven is realised when we reject individualism, initiates this unique contribution to the Christian community litterature.
Containing writings by C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Benedict of Nursia, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and many more, this is an excellent source of inspiration for anyone interested in Christian community and its pioneers. Its 52 brief chapters makes it a good weekly reading over a year, obviously suitable for a collective reading in, for example, a community.
The editor, Bruderhof member Charles E. Moore, restricts his own writing in the volume to the introduction, a chapter about children in community and a chapter on knowing and loving our neighbours. The topics he lets his fellow authors cover include counterculture, calling, obstacles, love, conflict, money, forgiveness, hospitality and revolution. The chapters are organised in four different (quite chronological) sections: A Call to Community (alluding to the book’s title), Forming Community, Life in Community and Beyond Community.
As one could expect, the format of including a multitude of authors writing about related but sometimes very distinct topics, prevents the book of having a clear line of thought. Moore does not explicitly tell us his reasons for putting the chapters in this very order, but leaves it for our own imagination to connect the dots. Some might find that more interesting and immersive than a spelt-out rout, while others, I’m afraid, might find the book a bit disconnected.
For the one who does not know much about community, or has hardly considered it, this book will rock their world. Moore is unapologetic in stating that community is “the life Jesus wants for his people”, and promises that his book will show “why Christians should live in community”. Like myself, he is convinced that the calling to community is for every single one who has chosen to follow Jesus. The questions is not if, but when, a Christian should join community.
For the one who wants to start a community (like myself) or plan to join one, Called to Community won’t give you the practical advice that for example David Janzen’s The Intentional Christian Community Handbook provides. In the introduction, Moore recommends the reader to also read Eberhard Arnold’s Why We Live in Community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth, works that of course are quoted extensively in Moore’s own volume. They will give you an even more solid ground to base your community on.
This is not to say that Called to Community does not have its place – certainly not! I know of no other work that collects the voices of important Christian community practitioners in this manner, and Moore’s selection is a wise one, covering most relevant topics and providing radical and challenging food-for-thought in an attractive manner.