There is a saying: ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ While I’ve heard this saying briefly before, it only recently became apparent to me what it really means. So, when Jacinda Adern made a post on Instagram introducing her new baby earlier in June this year with the caption ‘welcome to our village wee one’ the comment simply passed over me.
Fast forward to mid-August this year, I was scrolling Facebook and came across a post by the page Humans of New York. The post featured a beautiful portrait capturing a mother and her child. The caption contained a quote from the mother sharing her struggles of motherhood and feeling isolated in her responsibilities.
A comment by another Facebook user on the post referred to the ‘village’ and that it was once normal to have help from all around in looking after a baby. Another user commented that she had no village and was facing similar struggles whilst raising a child.
These comments made me realise what this ‘village’ really means. It used to take a village to raise a child. A whole extended family, neighbourhood would raise a child. Mothers and fathers would be surrounded with support. Each person in that village had a vested interest in raising the child, and supporting the wellbeing of both parents and child.
They understood the weight of the responsibility of bringing a new little human into the world. If it takes a village to raise a baby to a child, then to a teenager and into a young adulthood, then the village and its ability must have some significance.
The church village
Living out your faith in a world that can be so against it or so indifferent to it naturally comes with many challenges. Even without the challenges of the world, important aspects of our relationship with God can be difficult. We wouldn’t need theologians or biblical scholars if the bible was straight forward to read and understand. While the mystery of the bible can be part of the very wonder of it, it certainly makes reading and comprehending it difficult at times.
Meeting together to study the word and ponder its value and teaching can be critical in grasping the significance of it. Grabbing someone after church on a Sunday to sit and pray with you over a current struggle or an upcoming event can be the difference between being overwhelmed by the situation or relieving your stress over it. It’s not hard to see that the church community is so important to your faith.
Raising a child can be like growing and feeding your faith. Both require love and input from many people. Both require discipline and focus. Both require vulnerability and care. Both need attention, and a lot of it. It takes many things to raise and care for a child, and it can be easy to see that when you consider that a baby cannot do many things for itself.
Comparatively, it can be challenging to see which aspects of your faith and others’ faiths need some care. It is not always a tangible relationship. Furthermore, we sometimes consider our relationships with God to be so personal. We don’t always share with our church community what we are struggling with out of embarrassment, shame, or pride. But it does not have to be that way. We can be the village for each other.
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24-25.
In these verses, the writer of Hebrews was possibly encouraging Jewish Christians who stopped meeting together. Arguably, it was so important that they met together that it was included in this letter. The importance of the village was relevant then and it remains relevant today. We are not called to walk this journey alone, and I don’t think that we can really flourish without the input from others into our lives.
It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to surround one another as we journey in our relationships with God. A village to teach and learn together; a village to pray and intercede for each other; a village to rejoice and proclaim together; a village to share and cry with each other.
Rebecca Hoverd studies at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to express her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your thoughts on ‘the church village’ at firstname.lastname@example.org.