by Kara Califf

We are all looking for community.

In 2001, Sean and I and 3-year-old Emma had just moved to Ankeny, and we were looking for a church for our growing family (I was pregnant with my second child at the time). When we attended a small church with a warm welcome and gifted musicians, I knew we had found a place that would provide community. It didn’t hurt that at one of our first services at RLC, Denny Lincicum and Rex Ratzlaff played their bluegrass gospel music, and we knew we had also found a community for Sean’s musical gifts.

Community is important because community brings connection. And connection is critical to our health, community safety, and resilience. In 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community”. This 82-page document calls our attention to a significant public health challenge and describes the importance of social connection and community, along with a strategy for advancing connection in this country.

Jesus showed us how to achieve community. He welcomed all. He dined with not only his followers, but people that society otherwise rejected. He taught and healed and gave us a new commandment, “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34-35)

Paul stresses community in his writings. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that Jesus gave the gifts of “apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints for the work ofministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 11-12). In other words, many different gifts for one purpose: building up the body of Christ.

Community is a core value at RLC. We have a strong history of sharing our gifts in order to build up not only our church community, but our local and global neighbors as well. Our community is a place where we build connections with each other and in doing so, deepen our relationship with God. Every time we meet together to worship, to share communion, to eat meals, to make music, to learn, to serve, we are strengthening connections for ourselves and others.

Community is important enough to RLC that we recently adopted it as one of the pillars of our strategic plan. We strongly state in this plan that we are “Grounded in the example of our past and moving in hope toward our future, we are following where God leads us to love and serve our neighbors…” The Forward in Faith Together Campaign connects our core value of community with goals that will enable this. Imagine our fantastic welcoming skills enhanced by neat, updated, and accommodating restrooms. Imagine inviting more of our Central Iowa neighbors into our space and knowing that our flooring looks nice and is safe for the kids. Imagine resources being freed up to create more opportunities for social connection with our neighbors because we have paid down our debt.

When we create community at RLC, we actively build up the body of Christ. It is my hope that you will join Sean and me in joyfully giving to the Forward in Faith Together Campaign so that we can continue RLC’s legacy of building community in hope towards our future.