[written by Eunice Parodi]
Launched in 2014 on the model of its ‘big sister’ in Gembloux, the objective of the church community in Hannut is to be an expression of the Body of Christ. By engaging on the ground with its immediate neighbours, l’Autre Rive is choosing to live amongst local people. The church is inviting local inhabitants to journey with Jesus in the heart of a group, and offering them the opportunity of participating in their community life.
Béatrice met Jesus at 19 in her native France and has lived in Belgium since the beginning of the ‘90’s. Three years ago, she joined the community of l’Autre Rive in Hannut on the advice of her family. Touched by the welcome she was given, she appreciates the style of the morning services, the teaching and the fellowship.
Rahel has always been part of a church; she was first taken to church by her parents, then she attended from personal choice. A few years ago she discovered that the parents of one of her daughter’s school friends were leading a brand new Christian community in Hannut. For two years the family came occasionally to Sunday services at l’Autre Rive while still attending the church where they’d been members for over 10 years. In 2016, they decided to join the Hannut church, and since then they have a sincere desire to follow and serve God there.
Béatrice defines ‘community’ as a space where you’re welcomed, heard, and able to share. It’s a place where you build links, and friendships, where people support each other, where you just enjoy being together. The dimension of becoming a family together is essential. For Rahel, a ‘community’ is made up of people who, despite their differences, all have the same objective. Being part of a community implies personal investment and sharing with others in order to go forward together towards a common goal. Like the flame that keeps the coals burning, this environment is helping Rahel to stay ‘on fire’ for God. She can do her part, being challenged, encouraged and exhorted by the Word of God and by other members of the community. She can find people with whom she can share and pray for the things that touch her deeply.
In l’Autre Rive, community life is not just about Sunday gatherings or weekly meetings. It’s demonstrated through shared lives, having a meal together, building friendships. It’s seen in their support for local events, such as the 24 Hours Puzzle Championship, an international event that takes place every year in Hannut. And community is not just for adults either: young people can meet friends of their own age with the same outlook on life, who also want to follow God.
Fortunately the sort of community life to which both Béatrice and Rahel aspire, is not the exclusive domain of a small number of Christian groups. Indeed, both had already experienced community in varying degrees in their former churches. Sometimes though, it just takes putting these ‘little bits of community’ side by side and letting them develop. For Rahel, for example, sharing and serving together makes more sense in a local environment, and sometimes you need patience before seeing results. Spending time with others and getting involved in the same task together helps to put in place an atmosphere conducive to the creation of relationships and the growth of community. As for Béatrice, she underlines the importance of keeping an open mind, caring for others, and showing them goodwill and wisdom.