Tales of how you can change into a beloved one
"As an episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, we dream and work to promote beloved communities in which all people can experience dignity and life in abundance and see themselves and others as beloved children of God." Beloved fellowship
Many churches have invited speakers, organized classes and participated in information events on issues of racial justice. It is more difficult to participate in the ongoing, long-term, deliberate and sustainable work of racial reconciliation. Below are two stories in which the church does just that, using the resources of the Episcopal Church Becoming Beloved Community.
In these stories of becoming a beloved St. Paul and St. John community, you will find that no one claims to do this work perfectly. If we wait until we are sure that we are doing it "right", we may never start. You may also find that the ongoing work was initiated by a series of lessons – speakers, series and events are important. If you notice energy in these conversations, don't be afraid to keep the conversation going!
Episcopal Church of St. Paul Fayetteville, AR
After the events in Charlottesville in 2017, it was imperative for our community to respond to racism and white supremacy. I say "felt" because the urgency was always there; only our attention to it was new.
Our community, which is largely white, wealthy and just, was unsure of how to respond to this urgency. So we started a series of lessons entitled "What can we do about racism?" in which we examined the four quadrants of the Becoming Beloved Community model. At the end of the series, we simply offered an invitation: if you want to continue talking about racism and what you can do about it, keep popping up. Since then we have continued to meet, from a weekly meeting to a meeting twice a month.
Anti-racism work can be a challenge, especially since we all come into discussion with a different understanding of the intersectionality of racism and social justice. In order to make participation accessible, we kept the formatting loose. In the beginning, the only obligation was that everyone should learn about racial justice through personal learning and share their learning and growth at our meetings.
Over the past three years, the group has changed its purpose to involve the entire community in anti-racist work. We're now spending half of our time together talking about a book. The other half of our meeting is spent organizing three major goals we have for our community this year: going on a pilgrimage, training our community leaders in anti-racism, and engaging people in small group discussions on a quarterly basis.
Our group strives to become a beloved community by looking inside and tidying up our own homes, connecting with others in the wider community we are invited to, and appearing in the long run.
St. Johns Episcopal Church | Wake Forest, NC
On an ice-cold Martin Luther King Day in 2017, about 200 people from different faiths gathered in the sanctuary of the Olive Branch Baptist Church in the Wake Forest and made the following promise:
I believe that every one of us – regardless of who we are or where we come from – deserves a decent life.
Like Dr. King I believe in a beloved community of justice, equal opportunities and love for my fellow human beings.
I want to help build a world that leaves no room for poverty, prejudice or violence.
I commit to working side by side with my neighbors to create strength, stability and independence for everyone.
I ask others to join me – it is up to us to make this happen.
This public service, in conjunction with the Episcopal Church's framework for building a beloved community and the way of love, brought the leaders of St. John & # 39; s on a deliberate and committed way to lead our church through the labyrinth of racial reconciliation to go and do the work to become a beloved community.
Church leaders have made this promise visible to everyone, our rector has preached the spirit and scripture behind this promise, and we have started to incorporate the concept of building a beloved community into our worship, outreach, youth work and adult education. To provide a foundation for our work, our community members were asked to listen to the podcast scene in Radio Season 1: Seeing White for our weekly Lent this year for adults. We linked the personal stories, scientific research, and historical overview of race and privileges discussed in the podcast with the script and followed the framework of the path of love for learning and prayer for racial reconciliation. This combination triggered changed hearts, opened the mind, and inspired the formation of a monthly gathering of different community members to continue this work. Three years later, our loved ones group remains one of our largest and most dedicated adult education gatherings.
Thanks to the leadership of our group of loved ones, the parishioners of St. John have committed to learning and turning by delving deeply into books, articles, podcasts and films that explain the difficult history of our church, the continuing injustice of the separate schools and our criminal justice system and our state. We are committed to listening to the stories and learning the experiences of the people in our community.
In addition to learning, listening and prayer, we have focused on creating opportunities to build relationships with different people in our wider community. In addition to our church walls, we have partnered with our city, a community coalition, and many neighboring churches who are also committed to building a beloved church to set up a summer nutrition program and monthly community meals that will give us the opportunity to learn with our neighbors break bread and build relationships. We attended our community's Juneteenth Celebration each year and organized a tour to learn about the history, vibrancy, and needs of a red-framed part of our city. The power of the promise we made to our neighbors three years ago continues to drive us to learn, read, listen, build relationships, and pray for our beloved community.
St. John's, Wake Forest Community promises to build the Beloved Community
Beloved community labyrinth image courtesy of the domestic and overseas missionary society – Protestant Episcopal Church US. All materials related to Becoming Beloved Community can be found on the website.
Samantha Clare is director of Christian education at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, AR. She has a passion for spreading Jesus' call for social justice and helps people make connections between their daily and spiritual lives so that they can bring their whole and authentic selves into the world. You can find more of her writing on samanthaclare.me.
Joy Shillingsburg is the director of youth and public relations at St. John's Episcopal Church in Wake Forest, NC. She was also co-leader of the Beloved Community Adult Formation Group in St. Johns for more than three years. She brings fifteen years of experience as a history teacher in the middle and high school to her work.