I am writing this article while waiting to serve during the Pennsylvania primary election, during the lull between voters who vote on their way to work and voters who come to vote during lunch.
My fellow election workers are a mix of neighborhood residents and senior class students at Bellefonte Area High School. And once again, I am struck by the sense of community that develops around primary and Election Day, as I greet and catch up with people about the last six months. For this time we are a supportive community working to make the election process a positive one and despite the long day, I feel energized.
The week before, at a monthly coffee hour sponsored by Interfaith Initiative Centre County, the theme of the month was “How do you define your faith and how does your faith define you?” My answer was that my faith was best defined in community, and that this is when I feel closest to God.
Now, I know that solitude and contemplation are very important and that community at times is not a support. But for me, especially this year, community has allowed me to explore and grow in my faith.
The coffee hours hosted by IICC have allowed me to have profound discussions on faith, and support others on their journeys across cultures, religions and varied experiences and practices.
It has been a rich, invigorating experience where I have learned and shared a great deal.
In my own church, I am a member of the altar guild, nursery Daughters of the King, and the social justice committee, and formerly Education for Ministry. Through these settings I explore various aspects of myself and connect to diverse ways that faith is lived out in the life of my parish.
This year, I was the site manager for Out of the Cold Centre County, a collaboration of congregations that open their buildings and fellowships to our area’s homeless community. This experience was truly life and faith enhancing, as individual congregations came together, using the time and talents of each person to create a community of support for people experiencing homelessness. As a group, we were able to move beyond our comfort zones and live out our faith in the world. We challenged and supported one another.
Among the homeless population, there was and is a sense of community as guests of the program gave one another rides to the various sites, taught new people about the program and community resources, and shared meals and night-after-night sleeping spaces together.
Through truly supportive community, based on respect, shared goals and caring, we can grow and help one another on our journeys through secular and spiritual life — across faiths, across ethnicities, across cultures and life experiences.
Michele Hamilton works at Centre County Women’s Resource Center and is active in community organizations locally and statewide especially around civil rights, housing, civic engagement, and eliminating violence against women. Follow her on Twitter: @namastejustice.