An administrator who I believe was also a professor (or soon thereafter) came to the seminary I graduated from toward the end of my time. I remember him saying something which I haven’t forgotten: “All spirituality in scripture is corporate in nature.” Something to that effect. I mentioned that to our esteemed New Testament professor, and while he thought it may be overstated, he nevertheless thought that the point made is true.
I appreciate a sacramental understanding of our faith (example: God meeting us through Christ as we meditate on the truth behind or perhaps given to us in symbols), and I think there’s truth in it. But I also think such an understanding can undercut the communal nature of our faith. I have no problem taking “the Lord’s supper” or holy communion with brothers and sisters who accept the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, in the bread and the wine. That’s not an issue that way, although churches will close communion for believers such as I who don’t see that. Sadly there are churches on the other side who close communion for other reasons, oddly enough communal reasons, like not following rules laid down for the practice of their faith.
I think a distortion can often occur, and we can miss out on having all the perception needed, when we don’t see our faith as communal. We then can tend to see everything in light of our own experience with God in and through Jesus by the cross. While there is much good in that, it is not enough by itself, because it cuts off the presence of Christ in his body, the church. It no longer matters what the Spirit might be saying to others; one’s experience of Christ becomes authoritative for the rest, even in specific instances in which there is no ongoing firsthand communication of what is going on.
Individualized Christianity is about me going to “church,” hearing some individual speak, and maybe getting a smattering of community on the way out the door. It doesn’t take seriously and therefore grapple with the truth that our faith in Jesus is significantly communal in nature. You go to church, meet God through the Sacrament, confess your sin to the priest or minister, you hear the minister lead in prayer and give the message from the Lord (hopefully scripture is read in the service, as well), and that is largely the sum of it. I am glad to be a part of a church which seeks to incorporate something of both a sacramental understanding of the faith, and how that plays out in community, or one might say the communal nature of our faith. God does meet us individually through the word and the sacraments or symbols and practices given to us, in and through Jesus Christ. And God meets us through the words and friendship (yes, friendship) of others, in and through Jesus Christ. Both.
This is only one sliver of this subject, I’m sure. But one I want to understand better. Together with others in Jesus for the world.