SCC is a local miniature (small) Church
Some People still think that they have already SCCs in their local church. People often say, We have Small Christian Communities. Our prayer groups, for instance, are SCCs because they are small and consist of Christians! This is not quite correct. A prayer group is not yet a SCC, as we understand it. Pope John Paul II, for instance, calls Small Christian Communities A concrete expression of the Church and A home and family for everyone. (FC-85). The AMECEA bishops stated at their 1976 Plenary Conference that the Small Christian Communities as proposed for Eastern Africa are simply the most local incarnations of the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is more and more being an accepted fact that SCCs are becoming the real church, alive in the neighbourhood. As a concrete expression of the church it needs to have certain important characteristics of the church, which can be described as the four important marks of SCCs. We suggest four essential marks which belong to a SCC:
First mark: Members of a SCC are Neighbours:
The first mark is that members who belong to a particular SCC are neighbours, ie. they do not come from different parts of the parish but from the immediate neighbourhood. Hence all those who belong to the neighbourhood whether rich or poor, young or old people, singles or married couples, non-Catholic spouses, strangers, members of different language groups, etc. are part of the SCC. They gather once a week or once in 2 weeks in some ones house in rotation. They meet as a church in the neighbourhood, since people are the Church and they live and interact in a stable way in the neighbourhood, the Church is in the neighbourhood.
Second mark: SCCs make Gospel Sharing the basis of their meetings
SCCs follow the 7 step gospel sharing method. Gospel sharing gives the group spiritual nourishment, mutual encouragement in the faith and strengthens mutual trust among the members. Through Gospel Sharing we make Christ present in our midst and He truly becomes the foundation of the community. Gospel Sharing helps us to become the Lords disciples. He told us, If you make my Word your home, you will be my disciples. (Jn 8, 31). Gospel Sharing makes us a new family. Jesus said: My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice. (Lk 8,21). Gospel Sharing helps the community to discern Gods will for them in their lives and situations. From time to time, however, we use other methods as well which help us to see beyond our own lives to the lives of others. These methods include Group Response and Amos Programmes with social analysis.
Third mark: SCCs are linked to the Universal Church
The third essential mark of a SCC is to foster unity with all other Christians. Members of a SCC cannot belong to Christ if they reject unity with the universal church, ie. with the other brothers and sisters of Christ.
The SCCs in different ways are linked to the Universal Church. First and foremost it is the Eucharist or the Breaking of Bread which is the strongest link between SCCs and the Universal Church. Pope John Paul II says: The Eucharist brings about the intimate bonds of communion among all the faithful in the body of Christ which is the Church. Through the Eucharist and the Word of God, the many SCCs and other groups in the parish become a Communion of Communities and a New Way Of Being Church. (FABC 5, Art 8). The priest is the living link between the SCCs, the local parish, the bishop of the diocese and the Pope, the chief pastor of the Universal Church. The SCCs are represented in the Parish Pastoral Council. Leaders of SCCs receive continuous training and spiritual formation from the priest. This creates a strong bond of unity. The local parish is linked to the Universal Church by the same faith and the same mission to bring Gods love to all.
Fourth mark: SCCs act and do things together out of faith
In step 6 of Gospel Sharing SCCs ask the Questions: What is our task for the coming week? What is our task as Church in this locality? The members of a SCC say, We are the Church in this neighbourhood! Therefore, the SCC undertakes various tasks as a responsible church continuing the mission of Christ in their neighbourhood in small concrete ways. The Church the whole world over is responsible for continuing the mission of Christ today. A SCC, therefore, feels co-responsible to continue this mission in their neighbourhood. For instance some of the activities they do are ; Praising and thanking God, forgiving each other, creating unity and peace, sharing faith with catechumens, preparing the Sunday liturgy, preparing the children for First Holy Communion, preparing the youth for Confirmation, welcoming strangers, acting as sponsors to catechumens, standing up together against injustice and corruption, reaching out to members of other Churches and religions, giving prophetic witness of a new society based on a civilization of love, as Pope John Paul II says. (RM - 51)