The Gift of Companionship
Written by Karen Meeker
Embracing the gift of companionship brings fellowship, friendship, encouragement, sharing, common interests and cooperative pursuits into our lives.
The word companionship evokes several scenarios. What might immediately come to mind is God’s pronouncement at the very beginning: “It is not good that a man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). “Alone” refers to a unit by itself. So God made Eve to be Adam’s companion so he wouldn’t be alone.
Thus, the institution of marriage—with its pledge of lifelong walking together—came to be.
However, there are other facets of companionship besides marriage. They include fellowship, membership, friendship, participation, encouragement, sharing, common interests and cooperative pursuits, to name a few.
For me, the local congregations of God’s Church around the world embody these facets, collectively and individually.
In the beginning: friendship and membership
In the early 1960s, my husband, George, and I started our married life serving in a rapidly growing church area in the upper Midwest. We were also growing, as our first child was on the way.
A unique circumstance existed in that congregation. In the late 1950s, my husband had helped the area minister catch up on visit requests.
A group of five friends had contacted Church headquarters for more information. My husband arranged for a visit, answered their questions, and in time, four of them made a commitment to follow God.
Several years later, George was sent as the minister to serve in their area.
Growth and opportunity
We found that the four individuals and their families had started meeting with 12 or so others who comprised the fledgling congregation. Attendance had steadily increased (by the time we arrived in 1960, the numbers were in the 80s), and these companions lent willing hands by serving as needs arose.
One opened his music store to provide meeting space for the choir (which he conducted) to practice and for men to participate in a Spokesman Club. At one point, the children had a rhythm band that practiced there before presenting special music.
Two of those families had children who eventually attended Ambassador College and became part of the ministry as pastors or pastors’ wives.
Overall, this core of friends helped provide a healthy environment for the steady stream of newcomers.
A bit out of the ordinary
This particular congregation, one of four assigned to that particular region, initially met on Friday nights so George could conduct services in another congregation on the Sabbath day.
Some members drove many miles, often in wintry conditions, to meet together. Sermons in those years tended to be long, so several would regularly arrive back home in the early hours of Sabbath morning. But they were eager to learn and be together—whether at services, in various social activities or in various service projects.
They rarely missed an opportunity to be together.
With the passage of time
Those four individuals remained steadfast friends and active Church members until, one by one, over the years, they died. Their influence helped facilitate close relationships within their congregation at large, which numbered over 400 by the time we were transferred four years later. It eventually was divided into several smaller, more manageable, congregations.
That was a time of explosive growth in the Church.
Parts of the whole: common interests
In another church area, a woman asked George if he would conduct a Bible study in her home. There were several who were interested, and so a regular in-home Bible study began. It was mainly composed of women who were free during the day, but men would have been welcome too. What ensued was not just the formal study, but questions and answers, discussions and the sharing of experiences.
Because of their mutual love of the Scriptures and desire to learn more, the women developed a companionship that lasted over the years. This activity undoubtedly quietly added to the strength and stability of that congregation as a whole.
Later, we were transferred to an area in southwest Missouri. The congregation numbered around 200 in attendance. The interesting thing was that about half of the members were 60 years of age or older (many were in their 80s or 90s). They called themselves the 60+ers and loved being together—in Bible studies, potlucks and any other activity that came along.
During their monthly Bible studies, it was common to hear whistling hearing aids and occasional audible questions from the back: “What did he say?” “What was that scripture?”
Among them were a woman who had traveled to Missouri in a covered wagon and a man who had been a part of the Oklahoma run for free land. Two couples grew huge gardens that helped to feed any who might be in need.
They cared for one another. They knew each other’s stories and challenges, and they added a beautiful element of intimacy that impacted the whole congregation.
Participation: harmony in song and prayer
Research led by psychologist Nick Stewart of Bath University indicates that “people who participate in a choir enjoy a greater feeling of togetherness and being part of a collective endeavor than others involved in different social activities,” says author Jordan Smith in his post on the entertainment and music website CMUSE.org.
We have been privileged to witness this togetherness in action in several congregations and at the Feast of Tabernacles in particular.
There is a camaraderie among choir members that is encouraged by a love of singing and by hours of learning, practicing and refining. They strive to sing in total harmony with one another—the blending of many voices to sound as one in singing praise to God. Many of them participate year after year.
Yet I also consider that congregational singing offers its own source of connection. It is one of two opportunities for the whole assembly, old and young, adults and children, to offer collective praises to God. (The other is praying together.)
And, of course, our common belief in God and our need to worship Him on the Sabbath day brings us together in unity, week after week.
Encouragement: loneliness and summer camp
In a recent edition of In Accord, Doug Horchak interviewed two camp directors regarding the benefits of the camp program. Last year’s theme, “Courage Under Fire,” was geared to help young people with some of the challenges they face—so they would not feel alone when dealing with such issues as death and illness, bullying and gender identity confusion.
While our camps last only one week, the friendships developed there can continue and grow via social media, local activities and events such as the Winter Family Weekend and holy day convocations. One parent commented, “Our children made good friends with several individuals and have been in frequent contact with them since leaving camp.”
Not only do young people gain a sense of connection and belonging from camp, but the volunteer staff does as well. Our youth get encouragement by being together in activities and in downtime, and by the examples of dedicated staff members who demonstrate that God’s way of life really works.
The Bible on the value of companionship
I’d like to end with Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Companionship is essential!