During the month of February, we will be reflecting together on the meaning of Beloved Community. For the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Beloved Community was an important concept, the aspirational vision of a community that included everyone, that did not discriminate against or exclude people based on race, nationality, class, religion, gender or other difference. Although he had no illusions that Beloved Community would be easy, for King, it was not a utopian vision, but a realistic and achievable one, rooted in the commitment to nonviolence.
We talk about community a lot. We often speak of our towns and neighborhoods and churches as “communities.” Communities, in this sense, are places where people live or work, worship or gather. But Beloved Community goes beyond simply a gathering of people.
Author M. Scott Peck wrote about the differences between “real” and “pseudo” community. He said that a real community is “…a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together,’ and to ‘delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own.’”
This sort of community is hard work to create and to maintain. All too often, unfortunately, those who seek community find instead what Peck has called a pseudo community, in which “people who want to be loving attempt to be so by telling little white lies, by withholding some of the truth about themselves and their feelings in order to avoid conflict.” We do that all the time in our families, among our closest friends…don’t we? Real community is very rare.
The forging of real community, in which we share our most deeply held thoughts, values, truths, and fears, is not easy, nor is it always comfortable. It requires not only that we tolerate difference, but that we honor and celebrate it. Or in the words of bell hooks, “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference, but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”
The building and maintaining of such a community requires a good deal of risk-taking, and apologizing, and forgiving. It requires that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It requires that we learn to live with mistakes, our own and others. It requires that we not turn away from pain or challenge or suffering, but that we turn toward them. It is aspirational, but it is also realistic and achievable. It requires commitment and courage, but it is worth the striving.
I look forward to reflecting more with you this month on Beloved Community and how to grow and sustain it!
Wednesday, February 17, 7:00-8:30: Listening Deeply to Poetry, The Beloved Community Edition
Join us as we gather once again on Zoom to read and reflect on 3 poems using an adaptation of the Christian tradition of Lectio Divina. The basic idea of Lectio Divina is to deeply listen to a text by reading it multiple times with different questions in mind each time. This month, we will engage in a deep reading and reflection on 3 poems related to imagination.
Everyone is welcome! You need not have attended before, and there is no need to prepare anything ahead of time. Just bring yourself, perhaps a love of poetry or a longing for deeper spiritual engagement, and an openness to listening in community.