A Community is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”… But how do you go about actually building one?
Most people think that actions like “just talk” or “just build” are the answer… And as one person put it:
I think we confuse resources and community for one another […] frankly, the answer to community building is simple: talk to each other […] the community is the people, interacting […] This is all a roundabout way for me to try to get at that just… “how to create community” discussions are, from my point of view, extremely redundant and self-perpetuating. we don’t have to talk about how to create one, we just have to talk and it will arrive organically.
And as another user said after Felicity’s response:
“I think saint-felicity already made this point, but it’s worth repeating: a community is not a collection of “resources,” guides, masterposts, or grand projects of any sort. A community is not made by specialists, nor by leaders, spiritual or otherwise.
A community is made up of the relationships between its members. So if you want to build a stronger community, you need to foster those relationships. That means making people feel welcome & encouraged to participate. That means creating opportunities for people to meet & get to know each other. That means fostering conversation & discussion. And over all, it means a focus on *people* not *information.*”
However, while some Communities do develop organically, “Build it and they will come” and similar ideologies are a fallacy that we need to stop believing in if we have any hopes to actually make it work. The idea of “Community”, and its creation and fostering, is a lot more nuanced than anyone gives it credit for- and frankly, it takes a hell of a lot more to build a community than just “people interacting with other people”.
Ultimately “building it” is a waste of time if the end product is useless, holds no value, offers no support, or otherwise fails the people it tries to service. Communities of all stripes are no different in this regard; they need more than just interpersonal interaction… Instead there are several elements which are important not just to the function of a Community, but its strength and longevity… Interaction, ironically, happens to fall almost at the very bottom of that list.
Intent, Image, and Goals
Where will your Community be located? Is it local? Is it Online? Does it service a large group or a small one? Why does your Community exist? What does it represent? Who does it represent and who will it service? What is its purpose? What do you hope to achieve through its creation? How will you present yourself to people- Community members and non?
Access and Availability
How will they gain access to your Community? What will that access ultimately entail? What is required to gain access? Are there any people who you wish to exclude or prevent from gaining access to your Community? Why?
What are the beliefs that your Community will uphold? What are the values? The Morals? Are there things you will not tolerate within the Community? Will you be flexible in your beliefs or will you be stringent in them?
What action will be taken when people disagree with these values or beliefs? How will you tolerate dissent or disagreement with them? What will you do about those who violate them? How will you deal with issues that arise between members? How will they be dealt with? How will the size of the group affect the logistics of and methods through which you handle these problems?
What resources will be available to Community members? What are these resources for? How will your community access them? Who will run or maintain them? Will you have Staff or Clergy available?
Is there any value or worth in their participation in the Community? What is the value or worth in participation? Why should they participate? How will they participate? What forms will that participation take? Are these forms sustainable over the long term? Will any of these forms be temporary? What will the time limit be on these forms of participation? Are there standards for that participation? Will there be disciplinary action taken against people who are members but whom do not participate? Will participation require anything from the Community members? If so, what will that participation require from them? How accessible does this make your Community?
Who will deal with these issues that arise- whether they are violations of the values the community holds, or disputes between members, etc? Who will organize methods of participation? Who will host in person events if there are any? Who can people go to in order to have access or join the community?
These are the foundations of a Community- and as you can see, it is much more complicated than simply talking to other people with similar interests, backgrounds, and so on; you need a plan, you need guidance, you need resources, and many other things in order to provide a functioning Community- especially a religious one… Furthermore, you need these things to have value; your Community members must gain something of benefit from participating and continuing to be a member of the Community.
So while the core of a Community may indeed be shared interests, ideologies, practices, and so on… Without these foundational elements, your Community become disorganized, disjointed, and will ultimately be short lived; without these things, a Community flounders- whether it is a religious community or otherwise…. And this is exactly the state that the Irish Polytheist and general Celtic* Polytheist community is in right now.
For a list of IriPol resources, including those I used to inform the opinions mentioned in this article, please view this page here.