Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 137: Mormons and Convents

Q: What do Mormons and Convents have in common?

A: A sense of community.

An LDS co-Oxford student and I received a tour of a little convent down the street from my college which boards Oxford graduate students. We were both instantly interested in living there together next year when we learned about the community environment of this small, 20+ graduate student "hostel". The students have developed a mission statement outlining standards, have job charts and responsibilities, share one large kitchen, a chapel-converted study area, a library (with a constitutional history section), and dining, common, sun and music rooms. One of the Chinese graduate students gets the lovely roses that adorn the quaint 1850's entryway.

As I reflected on why we both resonated with the place, it occurred to me that Mormons, like nuns, know community. Each active Mormon attends a congregation that is bounded by geography and size. These can range from tiny, 5-150 member "branches" to, at their largest, 500 people "wards" (such a unit is usually split into two small congregations, or a portion subsumed into a smaller neighboring congregation).

Much like the Catholic or Anglican parish, these congregations have distinct geographical boundaries. If you live in a certain area, you are assigned to a certain congregation (see "Meetinghouse Locator" at www.lds.org or www.mormon.org). This has several reasons, one of which is each active adult member is assigned at least 2-3 other people for whose well-being they are responsible. These "home" or "visiting" teaching assignments ideally will take the assignee into the home of their "teachies" once a month, making traveling longer distances a challenge.

I don't know if it was an intended consequence of the powers that be, but a very nice result from this world-wide arrangement is the creation of community. In your congregation, "everybody knows your name." People look after you, and you, through visiting and home teaching and church-assigned "callings" (see "A Calling at Last" post), look after them.

Mormons enjoy community, and I believe my friend and I will, if given the chance, enjoy that created by a few nuns in North Oxford. We hope they will allow us to join them for prayer meetings occasionally.

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