I recently had a conversation with a good friend who also serves as senior pastor at a large church in our city. As we discussed some of life’s problems our conversation drifted toward a philosophical approach to building a community. In a very short amount of time our discussion centered on the role of unity and uniformity. In some ways these may seem like they have competing interests, but they are both essential to building community. However, the difference between the two are worth understanding. Unity is placing value on all parts, even if they are different, and pulling them together to create oneness. Making sure that no one is left out, and that all are included. This is an important part of building community.
Uniformity has a role to play in this process as well. It is what helps us to create structure, order, and boundaries for the community. However if uniformity is allowed to rule the day then the eventual outcome will be a community that is unwilling to bend or compromise. It also promotes one way of doing everything which greatly limits our creativity and adaptability.
At the end of the day unity is able to do things that uniformity cannot. Specifically, it places value on diversity and does not run away from the things that make us different. It allows room for acceptance of imperfections instead of insisting on strict uniformity. As we look for ways to add value in our communities, we should consider how we apply these two approaches to the world we live in. If we overemphasize uniformity we may lose the ability to obtain unity. Ultimately the goal of a community is not that we agree on everything, it is about us agreeing above all else to be united, so that we have a foundation upon which we are able to agree and disagree.