I suspect there are some differences between the small faith-sharing groups as they have formed in the First World around movements like Marriage Encounter, Renew, and other such efforts. Maybe there’s a sense of an edgier agenda for the groups that meet in regions without parish structures or a sacramental life. Let’s read the firtst two paragraphs of section 51:
A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young churches – one sometimes fostered by the bishops and their Conferences as a pastoral priority – is that of “ecclesial basic communities” (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centers for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment. These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a “civilization of love.”
Much of what is described happens in more privileged and urban areas around the world. Some, like 12-step groups, operate mostly or entirely beyond the reach of organized Christianity. Yet their fruitfulness is undeniable.
These communities decentralize and organize the parish community, to which they always remain united. They take root in less privileged and rural areas, and become a leaven of Christian life, of care for the poor and neglected, and of commitment to the transformation of society. Within them, the individual Christian experiences community and therefore senses that he or she is playing an active role and is encouraged to share in the common task. Thus, these communities become a means of evangelization and of the initial proclamation of the Gospel, and a source of new ministries. At the same time, by being imbued with Christ’s love, they also show how divisions, tribalism and racism can be overcome.
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