"Ananda said: 'Friendship with what is lovely, association with what is lovely, intimacy with what is lovely -- that is half of the dharma practitioner's life.'
The buddha replied: "Oh, don't say that, Ananda. It is the whole of the dharma practitioner's life. One so fortunate with what is lovely will develop a skillful way of being, a thinking that no longer grasps at what is illusory, an aim that is concerned and ready, a contemplation that is unentangled and free. Association with what is lovely is the whole of the dharma-practitioner's life.'"
--- Samyutta Nikaya
I remember that though I had been interested in buddha-dharma for years, and had been practicing (mostly alone, but occasionally I'd sit with one group or another), I refrained from joining any sangha. And when a group of friends and I began to sit together in my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we jokingly said we were a group of "non-joiners."
And yet, over time, despite my skeptical suspicions of group-think, and seeing how easy it was for such cultish dynamics to form, I have also come to see just how necessary "association with the lovely" is.
Of course, humans being human, no community could or should expect to be free of tensions, conflict and disharmony. What makes a community a sangha and not just a group of people, is that each participant takes responsibility for their own reactions as well as for speaking up when s/he witnesses a dharma friend saying or doing something that seems harmful and using such conflict and tension for the general purpose of all members of the communities awakening.
Most importantly, perhaps, is that each participant in a sangha, rather then turning to others when upset with another member of the community, addresses that member directly, whether alone or in the company of another member as witness. And when some offense is brought to a member's attention, that member practices restraint of defensiveness, offers deep listening, and enters into the co-practice of restoration.
While there is no need to formalize this practice, the "Peace Treaty" created by the Plum Village community offers some guidelines for how sangha members can work with conflict. Of course, there is a caveat: I have seen the teaching of 'right speech' and 'deep listening' used in such a way as to create the tendency toward self-censorship, as well as the marginalization of dissenting opinion. Each and every sangha member must feel they can indeed speak up and out and be heard. The sangha must be willing to be changed by what comes out of any conflict.
This indeed is intimacy with the lovely -- though it may not always be pretty!