We can be human only in fellowship, in community, in koinonia, in peace. . . . We are not made for an exclusive self-sufficiency but for interdependence. . . . A person is a person through other persons. — Bishop Desmond Tutu
Many modern societies stress the importance of individual decisions, achievements, and tastes. Although this fosters a certain type of freedom, the lack of a sense of belonging can make it difficult to make choices while keeping the needs of others in mind. God is the father of all (Malachi 2:10) and the Bible stresses the connection between all people and that loving our neighbor is a basic human vocation. The Bible teaches we should love neighbors and strangers as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:33-34) and calls us to exercise hospitality toward strangers (Matthew 25:34-35).
Within this fundamental calling to consider the needs of others, Christian community is based on the fact that all believers are one in Christ. It seeks to express that oneness in a compassionate lifestyle (Romans 12:9-10), shared worship, and a shared meal (the Eucharist, or Communion). Community is lived in supporting each other, working together for others, and giving of time, wealth, and self.
Many basic Christian virtues are related to community. Cultivating humility, honesty, patience, and kindness enables us to live in relationships with others marked by care and service rather than selfishness and anger. This in turn affects our ability to learn from one another. If we value others, we give careful attention to their lives, ideas, and what they produce.
The Christian concern for compassionate community is relevant to learning about faith and science in several ways:
- Professional scientists typically do not work alone. They work in collaborative teams and draw on the work of a wider network of colleagues. Sustaining good relationships with fellow scientists is part of what is demanded of scientists.
- Learning about science in school typically takes place in classrooms with groups of students. Students learn not just from the information presented, but also from the ethos of the classroom. Attending to how we treat one another as we work at learning science together is a relevant part of planning for learning.
- Arguments about strongly held convictions related to faith and science can threaten the fabric of Christian community and present to the wider world a picture of discord and anger. Working at the virtues that allow us to maintain fellowship even while disagreeing is an important part of the task as Christians engage with faith and science issues. This concern for others needs to be taken into account in the classroom.
Many FASTly activities include a focus on community, asking students to …
- collaborate intentionally on complex tasks Activity: Building a Balloon-Powered Vehicle,
- reflect explicitly on how each is contributing to the group and how they are treating others Activity: Tower Building Teams,
- attend to the needs of fellow learners Activity: Rotating Review #1, and
- think about how relational virtues are relevant to the practice of science Activity: Does Science Need Virtue?.