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What does it mean to be a community?

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider how communities work together. 

Preparation and materials

  • 'Clapping Music' by Steve Reich or 'Geographical Fugue' by Ernst Toch
  • Play this as students enter.


  1. I wonder if you were listening to the music as you came in. The band/orchestra working together playing all their parts at the right time in the right order. Listen to this piece (play either the Toch or the Reich).

  2. What would happen if one of those people decided to play things differently, or to miss a beat or to stop playing? The piece would stop or it would fail completely. These people are working together for the common good and are working together. They are working as a 'community'. 

  3. A community is defined as a 'group of people who work together for a common interest' and so an orchestra, a band and, yes, a school are communities. Everyone is, hopefully, all working together and towards a common goal. 

  4. Think of a football team, or any kind of sports team. They will be working together to win their match. It wouldn't be any good if someone decided not to play because they couldn't be bothered or even if they worked against their fellow team mates. The 'community' that is the team has to work together to angle the win or even to play the game properly. Likewise, the school is a community, with everyone hopefully working towards the attainment and education of one another, whether it be teacher or pupil. The idea is that everyone should be able to rely on one another to play their part, do their job and hopefully reach the best possible outcome for the whole. 

  5. In Sikhism, the Sikh community is known as the Khalsa. Its formation is an interesting way of looking at what it means to be part of the community and also about what people are willing to give and do for their community. (You could have some students act this out.) Guru Gobind was the leader of the Sikhs at the time and, at a large meeting for a festival, he stood on stage and asked if he could have a volunteer to give his life for his religion. He asked if anyone was prepared to die for their faith. One man stepped forward, he was taken into a tent and the guru returned with blood on his sword. He asked again for someone who was willing to die and a further four times someone stepped forward. Each time they never came out of the tent and each time the guru returned to the stage with blood dripping from his sword. The assumption from everyone watching was that the guru had killed these five brave men. However, the guru revealed them, dressed in orange and called them pans piare, the five blessed ones. They were the start of the Khalsa, the Sikh community. From that point, all Sikh men would be known as Singh, meaning lion, and women would be kauri or princess. He had created the Khalsa, the community of Sikhs. 

  6. Guru Gobind Singh had created a community that was joined together, but it was based on the bravery of a few, and this was the foundation of the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh formed his community of people that were willing to die for their faith. Now this is quite an extreme example, but it can be true of any community today that people need to give of their all, do their best and work cohesively for the community to truly be able to work together. 

Time for reflection

How do you think you can work to your best in your communities? Your teams, your groups, even your friends and family? 

Publication date: September 2015   (Vol.17 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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