Now, I don’t care if you have a religion or not, I’m not a preacher and I won’t convert you. Religion is a good thing for me, but I’m quite prepared to believe it’s not as happy an experience for many. I struggle with Organised Religion, perhaps because I instinctively distrust the Status Quo and people who seem to be completely sorted in anything. But I do know that it’s easier to find friends through a church or church organisation, simply because the official creed in religions is that we are all Brothers and Sisters and should get on. It’s easier to make friends if you can join a group of any kind, rather than sitting back and expecting friends to find you.
One of the most welcome developments in Church organisation across the world was the rise of focus (again) on small groups. Bible study groups, Life Groups, prayer groups: whatever they were called the intention was that a group of no more than 12 people would meet together to share support, prayer and fellowship (that’s a fancy church word for being friends) and that these people would, in effect, be your immediate Church Family.
The Church I go to has a fondness for small group work, and it is a very good thing to join. Proper Church services can be (forgive the idea) very impersonal, because the focus is on You and God, rather than you and other people. Getting to know your neighbour between hymns and prayers is hard, because talking when the service is quiet is a no-no. Our Vicar does encourage talk in free moments, like when the children leave for their groups, or after communion, but a 2 minute talk is never long enough to get past the niceties of how are you and how was your week? Proper friendship needs more than 2 minutes a week.
I’ve been in several small groups at Church, divided along different lines. Organising them can be a nightmare. Do you split by age, gender, stage of life or do you mix people up and have a family grouping with different generations and experiences together? There is much to be said for all. The Oasis group, formed by and for Young Mums who (at that time) didn’t work during the day was a source of peace and tranquillity, offered complete with babysitting services. Other groups, with a mix of young and old, worked as well, because they gave you an insight into life beyond your own experience.
All the groups offered study, prayer and fellowship as standard. Fellowship is a peculiar word but it seems to be one religions are fond of using. It means friendship based on the shared interests. Not full friendship, but a state of being alongside and travelling together for a common goal. It’s an opening for friendship, rather than full-blown friendship with a person. Having said that, the openness and sharing in a small group does mean that you find out about others in the group rather quicker than a friendly chat would usually work, so fellowship very quickly becomes a relationship based on safe space, trust and confidence. A very hyggely experience, in other words.
It’s impossible to know the deepest problems of another human and not look at them differently. Hopefully, with compassion and love. In a small group you quickly become their support, a safe sharing space, or a source of help and information. You get a bond, and you feel obliged to strengthen that bond by keeping their confidences, earning their trust. You do that, or the group loses out. You share their pains and joys, you hear their problems and issues, you can give them a different perspective on their life just as they provide you with a new perspective on yours. Holy Hygge.
Okay, you are still reading, but you’re thinking, “Oh, my grief! Does She expect me to join a Church just for the small group work?” And the answer (of course) is no. Unless you want to. What I’m asking is that you consider what small groups are available to you. In your life. Right now.
I believe that being a member of a small group dedicated to something can be a most hyggely experience, as long as the group is free from drama and drama queens, with a good group dynamic. That could be a reading club, a craft group, a class run by a local school or technical college, a walking group, drinking group or any group based on an interest you have. I think building a group specifically to suit you is always possible… I’ve started reading groups & craft groups for that sole purpose. Think what you like most, look in local papers, magazines and online to see if anything suits you and then, if there’s nothing, set one up. (yes, that’s easier said than done, but anything good is worth doing)
Belong, build the friendships and be certain, as long as you persist with the group the hygge will come. And it will be good.
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