The Healing Power of Community

My entire professional career has focussed on healing. As a therapist, spiritual director and pastor, I have been honored to walk with thousands of individuals, couples and families on their journeys of healing. I know first hand the healing power of a counseling relationship as well as the healing power of small groups. This past week I had a unique opportunity to witness another level, another dimension of healing, and I would like to share, as well as recommend, my experience with you. My wife and I spent the last week with the good people of Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church in Naples, Florida where we had been invited to share part of our Living Compass program. Trinity-by-the-Cove is a thriving congregation, in no small part due to its rector, The Rev. Michael Basden, who has served the parish since 1999. The average Sunday attendance is strong year round, doubling in the "high season," January through April, as snowbirds from the north arrive to enjoy the Florida sun.

Several of the programs that we offered while we were at Trinity-by-the-Cove focused on helping people to maintain wellness and wholeness in the midst of a major loss or transition. Talking with the people who are participating in these programs gave us the chance to hear first hand reports of what has and is helping people heal, and what has and is giving them hope and strength to persevere in the midst of tough times.

When people shared regarding what had been significantly helpful as they worked through a loss or transition, we heard an array of things we might of expected. Many people spoke about the importance of family and friends. Others spoke about the importance of healing "professionals"--doctors, clergy, therapists and nurses. Still others spoke about the importance of support groups. And then there was one other very important instrument of healing that each person talked about, and that is the healing power of community.

It was inspiring to hear so many stories of what the power of community meant to the members of their church, Trinity-by-the-Cove. The stories were simple, but profound. "My church is my touchstone as I work through my grief. Seeing my friends each week at worship, at coffee hour or at Bible Study on Wednesday makes all the difference in my life." Another person shared, "So much has changed in my life in the last five years, but my church remains the constant in my life." And another commented, "The meals, the phone calls, the rides, the visits, the pastoral care, and the prayers have been a life saver for me."

In a culture that has so professionalized healing, it is easy to overlook the simple, healing power of community. I, for one, needed this reminder and am grateful to the people of Trinity-by-the-Cove for not just telling me about the healing power of community, but for showing it to me first hand.