As the Fall 2019 community groups start wrapping up, I wanted to reflect upon the whole experience. I’ve been coming to Oasis for a long time, long enough to remember when we fit into a much, much smaller room. At that point in time, the coffee break was great. You could talk to a good chunk of people and even have a decent, albeit short, conversation. Over the years, Oasis has grown. It has grown to the point, that sometimes I don’t recognize people who have been coming or a couple of weeks or even in one embarrassing case, months.
It’s easy to feel lost in the shuffle of Sunday morning. The people who have been coming for a while talk to the people they have become friends with, while the few extroverted individuals finding someone new to talk with. Not to mention any conversation that does take place, is inevitably cut short. I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the talks Sunday morning, it’s never been about the Sunday mornings for me. For me, Sunday morning has been the sun that the community orbits around, vital to our existence but you can’t live there. Don’t get me wrong, some people come on Sunday morning, listen to the talk, have a few conversations, and head home. This meets their needs perfectly fine. But for me, it’s been about the connections that happen outside of that.
My first time at Oasis, I was nervous. You see, I wasn’t an “atheist.” Sure I was no longer a Christian, but I wasn’t ready to throw away all of my beliefs and embrace the Dawkins scarlet “A” atheism. I was pretty sure I was going to be found out immediately and kicked out. Except that didn’t happen. In fact, at no point was I asked about my beliefs. I was even asked to join the group after Oasis at lunch. Years later, I still remember that first lunch at Masala Wok. I was sitting next to a couple, the wife, a history teacher. The conversation quickly turned to how the Texas education board was once again, changing history to fit a certain agenda. And there it was. The moment where I realized I could have a conversation with someone about a secular topic! The moment where I found my tribe. Sunday morning brought us together, but it was the smaller group, more personal conversations, that made Oasis feel like an oasis.
This feeling is what the community groups are trying to foster. A chance to have conversations in a smaller setting. A chance for you to get to know other members. A chance to feel like you’re not alone. An individual in my community group recently said, that just the fact that he was able to have the conversations we were having was such a 180 from what he has experienced his whole life. People who have never attended an Oasis, people who only attend every once in a while, those who come every week, or those who just like the “extra” events are welcome in the community groups. It’s a place to bring us all together for a moment.
While past sessions have focused on philosophy or on interpersonal relationships, this session has focused on science, specifically near-future technological advancements. While I find the topic of the future of technology and the implications that has for the future of humanity fascinating, it is the conversations that come from it I enjoy the most. The questions are designed to get us thinking about the topic de jour, and sometimes we even discuss the actual question. However, most of the time, the conversation drifts pretty far from the topic at hand. But that’s the fun part; that’s the community building part.
For me, Oasis is all about the connections. All about the community. That I may love the topic one week and be apathetic to it the next week isn’t exactly the point. It’s having the opportunity to talk and ponder the depths of reality and the topics of our day to day life and make friendships much like we did in the early years of Oasis. I wouldn’t change the growth Oasis has experienced for anything, but Community Groups is a positive I’m glad we have incorporated them.