“CommUnity” by Alysha Mitchell

The WordPlayers’ next show, Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, will no doubt be a must-see (no matter how many times you have seen it before).

To me, this play is primarily about two things: community and unity. In this small Louisiana town, everyone knows everyone, and if you are new in town, it is impossible to stay unknown for very long. Throughout the course of the play, we see the deep relationships of these women not just form or grow deeper, but be challenged and be strengthened in those challenges.

That is what community is—unfathomably deep relationship that cannot be broken or severed in any way by anything. Community is also what the church is about. As humans created by a powerful and unfathomable God, we were designed with a basic need for community—to know and be known. This need for community is just one more way we are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. The first chapter of John tells us how God was in community with Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit from before the creation. The ONLY reason this community God had with Himself was ever broken was to redeem us back to Himself by offering His holy Self to take our place in the punishment required for sin. And it should be noted this was broken and then promptly restored when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The church (as a whole) is not just designed to be a part of local communities but to have community within itself. As Christians, we have a responsibility to know and be known by those in the church. We’ve got to be willing to be honest with ourselves and others so that, in that sense of community, we are able to build each other up and encourage each other through happy times and spirit-mangling challenges, just as these women do.

Also, Steel Magnolias speaks to a sense of unity. While all six of these women have things they agree on and disagree on (sometimes vehemently), they all remain totally devoted to one another in love, mercy, grace, and patience. While a mother and daughter can fiercely disagree with each other, they can be unified in the pursuit of “what is best”. And oh so often, we individually pursue “what is best” while at the same time being willing to sacrifice the bond that helps us do that in community with others. David, in Psalm 133:1, wrote of the importance of unity for God’s people: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” There is beauty when we don’t let the petty indifferences destroy what we worked so hard to build in the first place.

In Ephesians 4, Paul charges the Ephesian church to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called . . . eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In other words, (and I have found this to be especially true in churches) when God’s people choose to fight over petty things, we portray a broken Holy Spirit—a God who is not in community or unity with himself.

The community we see in Truvy’s hair salon in Steel Magnolias is an ideal portrait for the picture of community and unity within the church. At (what is for me at least) the climax of the play, M’Lynn drops a proverbial bomb on the other women. The women demand to know why they weren’t told about something, and when M’Lynn says nothing could have been done, for the first time Annelle displays a little backbone saying, “We could have done something.” Community isn’t just about being social. It’s about knowing and being known. To me the greatest accomplishment of this play is the beauty of the honesty—the community and unity—displayed in the final scene.

I do so hope you’ll join us in September for the show.