February 2021: Beloved Community

“Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives…That person is always in your community somewhere; in the eyes of others, you might be that person.”
– Henry Nouwen

I love this quote and how it challenges us to engage in perspective-taking. In essence, it reminds us how easy it is to judge others, to be critical and dismissive of their views, to write them off. It is much harder to imagine oneself as the person whom another least wants to be around!

We see this dynamic play out most clearly online. Self-righteousness has triumphed in the era of social media with all the rewards we receive for connecting with like-minded folks and swiftly cutting off contact with people who disagree. Within our safe online circles, we strengthen our bonds and feed off the positive reinforcement we get in response to our jokes and witty put-downs of others who are no longer there to slow down this process. Our in-person exchanges have also suffered as a result.

What if, instead, we make the choice to intervene and stop the cycle? We could ask ourselves whether we are dismissing someone’s idea too quickly because it doesn’t accord with our own view. And we could try harder to listen more deeply, ask more questions, and adopt a stance of humility.

It only works if we ALL do it. This point is well explained in Soul Matters as follows: “We human beings run away from community not just because others let us down, but also because we doubt that others [will] step up when we let them down. Beloved community stays at arm’s length not just because it is hard to build, but also because we don’t trust that it will be there for us.”

Martin Luther King Jr. popularized the phrase “Beloved Community” and envisioned it globally through his call for non-violent action in the face of poverty, racism, and militarism. From The King Center website, we learn,

“In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood…..international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.”

Dr. King believed this vision could be realized. Conflict itself is not the problem — it is how we handle it and how we treat others that causes problems. I’d like to ask you all to join me in reflecting this month on how we can do better within our own small beloved church community – keeping it in our sights that our actions can either put us closer to, or further from, Dr. King’s vision of the global Beloved Community.

With thanks,

Jess Miner
on behalf of the Board of Trustees