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Basic Christian communities (English term for comunidades eclesiales de base, communautés de base ; also known as mini-parishes, life-communions, neighborhood churches, and grass-roots communities) are relatively small (in comparison with parishes), homogeneous groups of Christians who share common interests, values, and objectives; who search to emphasize primary, inter-personal, ongoing relationships; and who view themselves as ecclesial entities.
Basic Christian communities are the form in which growing numbers of concerned peoples are structuring themselves as an alternative or a complement to the parish model of Church.
Their common interests, their possibly living in the same area, and their limited numbers (from 8 to 40, some would say 100) allow members to develop close personal relationships.
Generally these groups seek some concerted impact on the world and undertake apostolic options as a group.
The rhythm of sacramental life varies according to group discernment and the availability of a priest or deacon.
The purpose of basic Christian communities is not to be parish societies that provide services to the parish, to be study groups, or to be movements infusing church life with one special quality; but rather to hold their own identity as an ecclesial unit.
Such factors as discontent, the unavailability of a priest, impersonalism, and the great distances between the members of some rural parishes have been catalysts for the origin of some basic Christian communities.
Among the positive features of these communities are: the experience of authentic community and close supportive relationships beyond the family; effective community supports and challenges to the members towards more meaningful service; a setting in which faith is deepened by the critique of the interaction between reading the Gospel and the struggle to live as Christians; promotion of involvement in contemporary society; rapid development of many and varied ministries or services among the members; and a questioning of the parish as the only model for Church.
In the late 20th century basic Christian communities became a major element of the pastoral practice of significant segments of the Catholic and Protestant Churches over the world. They are a cornerstone of much Latin American pastoral work. In many areas of Africa and Asia they are likewise a key for pastoral development.
For many of us the RC church is a failure and a lost cause. How could we ever trust it again?
But those of us who believe in Jesus and want to follow him know that part of that must be done in community. Only hermits are Christian loners – and most of us do not have the gifts (or neurosis ) for the life of a hermit.
Personally, as a Christian, I have need for community and community prayer, as well as for being alone and solitary prayer.
I am also convinced about the Sacraments – even though I am well aware they were a development.
So how can I be a Christian, have access to community prayer and Sacraments without having to buy in to things like hierarchy, canon law, clericalism and all the corruption and abuse I see in the church into which I was born?
And, I feel no call to be a Protestant of any kind
I do think that BASIC CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES are the way forward. In one sense, that is what we have had here in Larne since 1986 – a catholic community, with sacraments, that has no canon law but responds to those who need us as best we can, while making many mistakes as well.
I think a BCC should consist of between 20 and 40 people – small enough for everyone to know each other and build relationships.
It should avoid completely having any “leaders” and all matters should be based on the decision of the members, with a willingness by all to accept the majority opinion – but keeping a community welcome for dissent and dissenters.
The community emphasis should be on everyone developing a deep personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, Scripture study and spiritual and human sharing.
The community should have an absolutely deep rooted commitment to personal and social justice and should be involved in justice campaigns affecting the greater community in its area. A BCC should, at heart be anti establishment or non establishment – as Jesus was.
BCC’s AND THE SACRAMENTS
If the BCC is not under the control of the RCC it will either not supply them with the Sacraments or even go out of it’s way to stop them having the Sacraments.
A BCC cannot always depend on their being a benevolent priest coming to their aid – and such a priest would find himself being in trouble with his bishop or religious superior. So they have two choices:
PERFORM THEIR OWN SACRAMENTS – which of course the RCC would seem “invalid” – but in God’s eyes would be perfectly valid and grace giving.
OR AVAIL OF THE SERVICIES OF INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND PRIESTS.
That would be a decision for each BCC.
I think the BCC road is a word very worth considering by any Christian or group of Christian’s.
As always, I welcome readers thoughts.