Beloved Community, according to the King Center, was understood by Dr. King to be an achievable goal. It may well be achievable someday. Meanwhile, I think living into it, getting closer to it, is a task that asks for constant renewal. Like any kind of relationship, Beloved Community thrives on attention, tenderness, and awareness. Like any kind of relationship, it takes work — it doesn’t stay abundant and life-giving by accident — but there is joy in that work.
We have heard from three honored guests about what Beloved Community means to them. These friends of our members were so generous to share their stories with us. We wanted to hear from people who could describe an aspect of the Beloved Community rooted in multicultural, multi-faith experience. I am convinced that we cannot live into Beloved Community by checklists alone. The closer we as a society get to Beloved Community, the more it will require a change of heart, a change of consciousness, transformation that goes deeper than tweaks in language or signage or even music selection. That being said, our guests gave us some clues about what Beloved Community might be like.
One of the things we heard is that Beloved Community is a place of mutual care, a place where people can trust that they will be held. This trust is not based on sameness, but on experience with taking the risk of being known. Mary Brown spoke of learning Beloved Community literally at her parents’ knee, observing people organize across lines of race, class, and religion to work toward equality. Beloved Community means being concerned for the wellbeing of people whose experience we may not yet understand.
Curiosity and openness seem to be part of that compassion. Marya Kazmi Hay spoke about how important it was to be truly seen and heard, to have people who were fully present, to be able to give and receive care and connection. Being able to care for one another at that level means learning what care means for the other person. Mary Brown spoke about transforming ignorance to wisdom. She said that curiosity and mindfulness go along with compassion in that transformation. It’s not easy, but she said that love carries and pushes us to resist evil. Nora Manzella mentioned that, at their new job, co-workers actively wanted to know how to make them feel comfortable and welcome, without being intrusive; co-workers asked about their pronouns and whether Nora wanted co-workers to correct mistaken pronouns. Beloved Community does not make assumptions about what being inclusive means. Being open to learning is part of Beloved Community.
Our guests spoke about the freedom of Beloved Community. Nora Manzella mentioned that the DC Area Trans Masculine Society made room for them and gave them freedom to explore, which is only possible when we don’t require people to explain themselves or categorize themselves off the bat. Mary Brown spoke of the freedom and liberty of being among people who are mindful and compassionate, people with whom you can be authentic. Marya Kazmi Hay spoke about showing up as her whole self with her Strathmore Sisters, that freedom from judgement helped her to learn. In Beloved Community, people are valued inherently.
I want this for our society. I want a society where, as Charles read, “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 [siblinghood].” I want to see a day when UU congregations will be a foretaste of that world, when UU’s are so overcome by the spirit of love that we are moved to dismantle racism and other oppressions, and to transform our congregations for radical inclusion.
This congregation will have a chance to vote at the annual meeting on a proposal to create a task force for imagining that world, or at least for imagining what it would be like for this congregation to get closer to that world. Start with compassion and curiosity as you consider this proposal.
Love one another. Care for one another. Be curious about one another’s well being and open to learning more about each other as each person is moved to share. Extend that care and curiosity to the stranger. May this congregation grow into a place where every seeker in covenant can blossom and be held as their whole, authentic selves.
So be it. Blessed be. Amen.