Formation of a Molecular Community

Formation of a Molecular Community

Thoughts gathered from the book “The different Drum” by Scott Peck.

Scott Peck is mostly known for his book, The Road Less Travelled. But his lesser known book, The Different Drum, is mostly about communities. Here are some of my own interpretations and insights from his book.

This is what Scott Peck says about the group that met in Ralph’s basement (Don’t ask me who Ralph is. I don’t know).

“There is not much more to tell- just a group of people who get together to support one another with their difficult ministries” (151). It started with two people who felt they needed support. They discovered that the best way to feel supported was to support another.

The group began to operate with a basic structure and minimum agenda. “It was decided to begin each meeting with three minutes of silence and end with each member saying a brief, heartfelt prayer out loud. Beyond the set time of two hours and the simple liturgy of opening silence and closing prayer there was no structure in the group. A member could speak about whatever he wanted whenever the spirit moved him. The only rule was vulnerability. Members agreed to push themselves to be as vulnerable as possible. They shortly came to realize vulnerability required not only that they speak of intimate matters but also that they listen to one another with openness and a relative emptiness of judgment. They had become a true community.” (152)

The group that met in the basement of Ralph eventually consisted of all sorts of people including an atheist and an alcoholic. But Ted, the alcoholic did not last very long. Reflecting on this experience Peck (he was not part of that group) says, “Ted has learned nothing from the experience, they at least had learned something about their limitations.” Not a bad learning point! Sometimes God brings people along our way who may learn nothing from us but they can help us see what we are made of- the real us.

The group did not see themselves as a therapy group. They were just a support group. Through trial and error “it came to the wisdom that attempts to heal or convert were generally more destructive than supportive.” (154) Just because they did not “attempt” to heal, it did not mean that no healing happened. Healing was intentionally happening because that is the very purpose of the existence of a support group. The difference is that no one assumed the superior position of a healer and no one was assigned the inferior status of infirm. They were all in need of healing and they all had the power to heal and that is what a “healthy” community looks like.

What to do with members who are not able to attend regularly? How about those who drift in and out? “It was decided that some people did need to test the waters before arriving at a commitment and that as long as there was a substantial nucleus of the committed, the group was able to bear the burden of the uncommitted.” (157)

Community and Structure According to Peck, “community is not possible with either no structure or total structure. With no structure there is chaos. With total structure there is no room for emptiness… There is no agenda… Vulnerability is the only rule.” (159) Vulnerability is not the same as weakness. On the contrary it is proactive and potent, disarming without being defensive, disrobing without making one feel naked. In reality, this is healing in its very raw essence.

This group restricted itself to a single task: mutual support.

Peck does not tell us when or how a group becomes a community

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