Basic Christian Communities

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Basic Christian communities (English term for comunidades eclesiales de base, communautés de base ; also known as mini-parishes, life-communions, neighborhood churches, and grass-roots communities) are relatively small (in comparison with parishes), homogeneous groups of Christians who share common interests, values, and objectives; who search to emphasize primary, inter-personal, ongoing relationships; and who view themselves as ecclesial entities. Basic Christian communities are the form in which growing numbers of concerned peoples are structuring themselves as an alternative or a complement to the parish model of Church. Their common interests, their possibly living in the same area, and their limited numbers (from 8 to 40, some would say 100) allow members to develop close personal relationships. Generally these groups seek some concerted impact on the world and undertake apostolic options as a group. The rhythm of sacramental life varies according to group discernment and the availability of a priest or deacon. The purpose of basic Christian communities is not to be parish societies that provide services to the parish, to be study groups, or to be movements infusing church life with one special quality; but rather to hold their own identity as an ecclesial unit.

Such factors as discontent, the unavailability of a priest, impersonalism, and the great distances between the members of some rural parishes have been catalysts for the origin of some basic Christian communities. Among the positive features of these communities are: the experience of authentic community and close supportive relationships beyond the family; effective community supports and challenges to the members towards more meaningful service; a setting in which faith is deepened by the critique of the interaction between reading the Gospel and the struggle to live as Christians; promotion of involvement in contemporary society; rapid development of many and varied ministries or services among the members; and a questioning of the parish as the only model for Church.

In the late 20th century basic Christian communities became a major element of the pastoral practice of significant segments of the Catholic and Protestant Churches over the world. They are a cornerstone of much Latin American pastoral work. In many areas of Africa and Asia they are likewise a key for pastoral development.

See Also: parish (pastoral theology).

Bibliography: t. g. bissonnette, "Comunidades Eclesiales de Base: Contemporary Grass Roots Attempts to Build Ecclesial Koinonia," Jurist 36 (1976) 2458. c. floristan, Comunidad Christiana de Base (San Antonio 1976). j. marins and t. trevisan, Communidades Eclesiales de Base (Bogotá 1975).

[t. g. bissonnette]