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Recently, I interviewed an administrator for a coalition of churches in another state struggling with an enormous drug problem.

"How can churches be useful in tackling a drug crisis?" I asked him.

Frankly, I was a little skeptical. In many parts of the country, churches are treading water, along with other social pillars we used to take for granted: volunteer charitable organizations, bowling leagues, shopping malls.

His answer surprised me.

In some communities, he said, there's no grocery store, no bank, no school left. The church is the only institution still standing. It has a role to play when there is a need for dialogue, comfort, or help in a time of crisis.

Admittedly, I was speaking to someone who lives in a state which is struggling with high unemployment, persistent problems with addiction, and poverty that is passed on from generation to generation. The question of where and how to build community -- a place where people come together to listen and to help each other -- is crucial if they are going to have the resources to deal with the issues they face.

Perhaps you live in Minneapolis, or San Francisco, or Boston. Maybe your town, your city, your country village still has a Starbucks on every fourth corner, and a yoga studio and library right down the block.

Whether you must drive 50 miles to get to a restaurant with decent grub or can look at six out your apartment window, the places and people who anchor our lives are still important -- even if we sometimes take them for granted.

Where do you hang out on a Friday night? Who do you take with you on your weekend adventures? Where do you go for a shoulder to cry on or a quiet space in which to reflect when life gets tough and you feel that you are only hanging on by your fingernails?

For centuries in America, the church and other faith communities meeting in fancy buildings and humble homes were anchors for families from childhood to marriage to grave. Do you think it's possible that they still could have a role to play in being that inviting, sustaining, consoling and (even) enjoyable place in which to, hmm, "congregate"?

Community is a state of mind as much as a concrete place. Share your stories of where you have found it, and maybe you'll help someone who is still looking.

Has your sense of community and people gathering together changed in the last year? Where do you go to get together with people? Is church the place you go? Is it the local coffee or donut shop? Were these places important to you before COVID-19? Are they possibly more so now?

You can share your comments with us at the links below.

Written by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

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