Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Membership

"This was our membership. Burley called it that. He loved to call it that. Andy Catlett, remembering Burley, still calls it that. And I do. This membership had an economic purpose and it had an economic result, but the purpose and the result were a lot more than economic. Joe Banion grew a crop on Mr. Feltner, but also drew a daily wage. The Catlett boys too were working for wages, since they had no crop. The others of us received no pay. The work was freely given in exchange for work freely given. There was no bookkeeping, no accounting, no settling up. What you owed was considered paid when you had done what needed doing. Every account was paid in full by the understanding that when we were needed we would go, and when we had need the others, or enough of them, would come. In the long, anxious work of the tobacco harvest none of us considered that we were finished until everybody was finished. In his old age Burley liked to count up the number of farms he had worked on in his life 'and never took cent money'.

"...The members, I guess you could say, are born into it, they stay in it by choosing to stay, and they die in it..."

Taken from Hannah Coulter this Wendell Berry quote might well be mistaken for the book of Acts, thick with covenantal, ecclesiological, familial language.

Somehow we've made mutual generosity an event. Appealing for help is the crescendo of maxing resources, dead ends, burgeoning shame and awkwardness. Its broaching the sentence, "I can't..." And God-forbid never twice in one month. Meanwhile, fervency, outdoing, contributing, and seeking are the verbs marking love of Christians in Romans 12.

I long to raise Judah and Amelie in this Membership. Being "born into it", as they grow to pray, worship, and trust Christ, they will learn there's more to our faith than family devotions. Our family is flanked by other families as one Family. "They stay in it by choosing to stay, and they die in it..."


Julie said...

I love that quote. And this post. Especially the next-to-the-last paragraph. We are all taught to raise our kids (and ourselves) to be independent, self-sufficient people. It is one of the highest values in our culture, even our Christian culture. But we are missing out on one of the richest aspects of the body of Christ.

John Paulling said...

That was also one of my favorites. Especially when Burley brags about how many different farms he worked in his life, and "never took a cent of money." A moving application from you as well.

P.D. said...

I guess I need to get my hands on a copy of this novel.