the weblog of Alan Knox

Nouwen on Community…

Posted by on Jan 17, 2007 in books, community | 4 comments

I’ve recently been introduced to Henri Nouwen. I have not read any of his books. (Yes, I realize that I am probably the only person who has not heard of him, but I’m not afraid to learn about someone new.) A couple of quotes have captured my attention. Consider the following:

Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. (source unknown)

The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not “How can we make community?” but “How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?” (Bread for the Journey)

Our community of believers is moving closer to what Nouwen describes here. There is occasionally the feeling that one must be “mature” to take part or to be loved, but then there are other times when it seems that all will be accepted regardless of their faults.

What do you think of Nouwen’s thoughts on community? Have you experienced this type of community? Can you recommend one of Nouwen’s books?


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  1. 1-18-2007

    Can you recommend one of Nouwen’s books?

    All of them. Each is different and deals with different aspects of spirituality, but over the years I have always found his writings profound and have been ministered to through his words.

  2. 1-18-2007


    Thank you for recommendation… I guess I’ll start with whatever I can find at the library.

    I’ve been very encouraged by reading about the communities of faith their in Equador. Thank you for sharing the stories with us.


  3. 1-19-2007

    I agree with Guy, they are all good. The one I go back to again and again is ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. I change and grow every time I read it.

  4. 1-19-2007


    Thanks for the recommendation. Our library has that one, so I’ll start with it.