We asked two young people, representing two diverse cultures, to share their views on how community life interfaces with their church, family life and society at large: Are we inclusive or exclusive in our everydayness? Here are their comments.

Creating an Inclusive Church

One of the last words to come to my mind when I think of my local Adventist church is “exclusive.” My Adventist community of believers in the small town of Olathe, Colorado, is fairly open to the public. I’ve seen many people walk through the doors of my church building Sabbath morning, and I’ve watched the enthusiasm and warmth of my church family in receiving them. However, I wouldn’t consider this detail alone to attribute an inclusive attitude to my Adventist community.

An inclusive Adventist community goes beyond merely smiling at people when they wander into Sabbath morning services. An inclusive community involves itself in the lives of the community by taking initiative. In my church’s experience, holding events that bring the community into the church is not as effective at creating an inclusive atmosphere as creating events in the community itself.

One program that my church held in the community was a cooking class. We chose not to have the classes at our facilities. Instead, we held the series at a community center in the next town, Montrose, since many of our members live there. Our aim was to create a presence, a sense of aware- ness that, “Hey, we exist! And we would like to do stuff together.” The class was widely successful, not because it generated baptisms, but because the church taught some- thing practical to people living in the city—and even within the very neighborhood where we held the meetings. It raised a sense of awareness in the surrounding area, and people associate our church family with friendliness and genuine care for people who don’t (ever!) attend our church.

It’s been years since our first project and we’ve ventured out with different ideas since then. We even had a crocheting class. All of the classes created bonds of friendship, and some led to Bible studies—some even to baptism—but our main goal was met simply by going out into the community.

It is also important to be inclusive within the congregation itself. An often under appreciated form of inclusion comes simply from inviting members to help with church services. Even when I was a young person, my church was unafraid of involving young people in church programming.  Children pick up the offering and Friday night vespers is led out by people of all ages. We try to harbor an inclusive spirit through keeping track of where everyone is. If someone is sick or unexpectedly fails to show up one week, the Adventist community shows genuine concern. Members often visit one another or hold events at their homes to create a familial atmosphere.

Perhaps one of the most important practices that creates an inclusive attitude in my Adventist community is that of always having a family or two prepared to host people in case a visitor comes to church Sabbath morning. After the service, the church member will invite the visitor home for a meal. We prepare this way so that the interaction with the visitor doesn’t have to stop after the sermon.

Inclusivity involves a variety of attitudes and actions that create a positive feeling of belonging. It’s no use being inclusive to those who are visiting if the church leadership is exclusive in its view of who can serve. It’s not meaningful to reach out to the community in the city if the community in the church doesn’t seek its own backsliding members. I pray the Adventist community of believers will not be exclusive, for the gospel commission itself is inclusive.

Eliezer Roque-Cisneros is a senior theology major at Union College.


Inclusive Local Community

A healthy community is one in which people have good physical and emotional health. But health is more than just the absence of illness. A healthy community offers a high quality of life and takes a holistic view, recognizing that everything is connected and that the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. Community development is therefore connected to spiritual growth.

Spirituality is a powerful factor in shaping decisions and actions. We know that every religion teaches values that can be practiced in daily life, along with lessons from scripture. By applying what we learn from scripture to our relation- ships with others, we have a greater chance of producing a pleasant and cohesive community.

In my hometown of Kota Marudu, in Sabah, Malaysia, there are Seventh-day Adventists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and members of many other denominations. We even have Muslims. In fact, Muslims make up the religious majority of Malaysia, and most of them live on the peninsula of Malaysia. In spite of our diverse backgrounds and beliefs, we live in peace.

To me, having respect is an essential part of every community. Not only respect for others, but also respect for their religions, too, so that their ways teaching or praying are not mocked. In my city, we have that kind of respect and it is one of the characteristics that leads to our peaceful community. When I was in primary school, my friends liked to make fun of each other and their religions. But as they grew up, they realized that religion is a serious and sensitive matter. They stopped mocking anyone’s religion.

Another aspect contributing to my community here is toleration and understanding. Aside from hosting more than just one religion in our city, we also have a variety of ethnicities—including Chinese, Indians, and those from various other backgrounds. As we all know, having a group of people of different cultures mixed up in one place could spell disaster. But with toleration and understanding, we are able to put our differences aside and live in unity.

For example, Hindus believe in rebirth. As for Muslims, they celebrate Hari Raya after a month of fasting as a symbol of forgiveness, fellowship, and food. During the whole month of fasting, they can’t do certain things like pick their nose, say awful things and so on. The Chinese believe that it is bad luck to sweep the house during the celebration of Chinese New Year. By communicating these customs with one another, we are all able to understand where others are coming from. This matter applies to both culture and religion.

I believe that the most important thing to have is love, and this is the major contributor to our healthy community: love for one another, our religion, our God, our country. Nothing can be fixed in this world without love and consideration. Scripture is clear: If we want to experience God’s presence, we are to seek Him through His words, His Holy Spirit, and through relationships with others—our community.

Kota Marudu is a small city in which everyone knows each other. And because of that, we know when something is wrong with our neighbors. In July 2015, my father had an accident and broke his right leg. Word spread and people came to visit us for moral support, and some even offered financial help. We were very thankful for their kind gestures. Since we couldn’t go to church for weeks, people brought the church to us by worshipping at our home. Their consideration allowed us to experience God’s presence through them.

A healthy community can improve our spiritual growth. God wants to help us in life. He wants to listen to us, but He’s not necessarily going to show up in an angelic form. He sends a friend, a brother, a sister—the community.

Anneariana Pam Poimon attends the Adventist College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and writes from Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia.