How Are We Beloved Community?
John Dempsey Parker
I believe we are all called to cultivate, midwife, and grow the beloved community, where we all affirm the dignity, worth, and potential of everyone. However, I believe we all need to more fully live into being ambassadors of compassion, reconciliation and justice.
How do we develop vital, vibrant, healthy, and resilient congregations and communities?
Some of the answers may lie in the intersections and relationships among …
* Asset based community engagement, organizing and development. Let’s encourage greater civic engagement, community outreach, and deeper learning about our communities, histories, cultures, and ecologies.
* Inclusion and equity. Let’s continuously nurture culturally appropriate leadership and intentional, cross-cultural, multi-racial, and inter-generational engagement and collaborations.
* Supporting others in their spiritual lives. Let’s deepen our discipleship and explore our Christian vocation, individually and collectively, through leadership and ministry development.
* Abundant stewardship. Let’s help ourselves and others discern how to share our talents, gifts, relationships, and resources to be advocates for a better world.
For me, some good questions are:
- How do we nurture and grow cultures that cultivate and strengthen community?
- What encourages generosity, hospitality, solidarity, and empowerment?
- What nurtures healing, wellness, resilience, and self-reliance?
- How can we identify, leverage, and share our individual and collective gifts and assets in a way that’s life-giving, nurtures creativity, sustains diverse collaborations, and cultivates commitment to place?
- What are the places, spaces, and times to do this work?
How are we called to live into Sabbath? How can we resist the pressures and temptations to constantly do and produce? How can we re-ground ourselves in abundance, creativity, mystery, and wonder in order to restore more balance and harmony, to remember who we are and why we are here. How are we intentionally crafting a Sabbath culture? How are we paying attention to our health, spiritual practices, recreation, and relationships?
How are we called to live into Shalom? Let’s remember and recognize the inherent wholeness, interconnectedness, and unity of all Creation. Can we remembering our teachings and callings to nurture good works of forgiveness and healing, to sow seeds for peace and restorative justice? How are we called to help heal the sick and down and out? How can we comfort the broken-hearted and the mourners? How can we help give sight to the blind?
How are we called to live into Jubilee? How much is enough? How do we value life? Can we reduce our negative impacts on others and the Earth? How do we wrestle with and be released from the grief of the burdens and ripple effects of slavery, colonization and settler histories, racism, violence, poverty, and privilege?
How are we called to help empower and liberate those with their backs against the wall?
How can we forgive debts, and get free from our various forms of captivity?
Where are we called to practice generosity, to give, share, and invest through strategic philanthropy, community investing, and cooperative partnerships?
How are we offering hospitality? Are our relationships culturally appropriate, contextual, inclusive, collaborative, and mutually empowering? How are we “being with” folks, in solidarity as allies and partners? How does our Christian vocation build community, strengthen the common good, encourage good public policy, and develop leadership in others?
How are we called to be repairers of the breach?
Sometimes we ought to simply slow down and pay closer attention and discover the abundance of gifts and assets all around. Let’s engage. Let’s listen. What’s going on? Who’s doing what and why? The challenge is to share ourselves and be who we need to be – or who we were created to be.
Consider clearing space and making time to be able to wake up to see and read the world through dialogue, engagement, imagination, and vision. Consider being receptive and open to revelations, valuing insights from wherever they may originate – from Scripture, other books, the arts, media, popular culture, history, friends, family, dreams, coincidences, nature, children, strangers, and even sermons – and consider cultivating an openness to let those insights influence our understanding of others, the world, and ourselves.
In the end, I believe our hardest work is to truly understand one another, to authentically care for one another, and to work together to discover our own abilities to create and be community. I believe we all can help cultivate common ground for the common good by encouraging people to discern how their vocations and lives can help nurture the world they wish to see.