As we listened to the story of the Qumran community, I was struck with a sadness at the fragility of community. I know they lasted for a long time but they didn't last forever. Were it not for a shepherd throwing rocks into a cave and hearing clay jars break, we would know next to nothing about them. Their work would still be in a cave. The ruins would still be unexplored. (Almost all of the excavation at Qumran has taken place since and because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.)
The reality is that we still don't know a lot about the folk who lived there. Scholars disagree whether or not they were Essene or some other religious group or some other type of settlement altogether. The Wikipedia article on Qumran gives a good summary of some of the arguments.
Still, it seems pretty clear to me that they were a community gathered for religious purposes and that they took those purposes very seriously. And now they are gone.
As we drove home and came through Ventura, I thought of the Bridge Community there. It was a church community that deeply impressed me... They took their faith very seriously and tried to live it in concrete ways in that small city. They took their relationships with one another seriously and tried to truly be a community of faith together. After the death of one of the leaders, difficulties with landlords, struggles with how to spend time and resources, they dissolved. While I never was able to participate in the community and only got to know a few of the participants, I mourn the loss. It was nice to know that they were there and that they were doing church in a way that I would like to try.
All of that got me thinking... community is fragile. It is hard work to keep the relationships going and the struggles of relationship are never easy. It exists in a context and either disappears or changes when the context changes. It relies on a mix of personalities and gifts and circumstances that do not last forever. And then it is gone. And that is OK because it fulfilled its place in the universe and then made space for something new. If it did its job well, it leaves behind influences that live on for years to come. Qumran did. The Bridge did. Hopefully the communities that I am a part of do so as well.