By Della Rucker
"But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” (1956)
What do you do when your committee is handed a challenge, but you don’t know where to start? When it’s about transforming how we relate to each other across racial divides to become more in line with God’s plan for us, perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves.
The Becoming Beloved Community Committee at St. Barnabas has a simple but awe-inspiring challenge: to help the parish live up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision and, in the words of The Episcopal Church, “dream and work to foster Beloved Communities where all people may experience dignity and abundant life and see themselves and others as beloved children of God.” Becoming Beloved Community has been designated as a core ministry of The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Diocese of Southern Ohio, and all parishes have been asked to explore how they can participate in this process of discovery, growth, and reconciliation.
One of the greatest challenges of this initiative is that it is a work of spiritual growth, not just activism. That means the process is iterative and long-lasting, a continuous growth process. In materials available at Episcopalchurch.org, the process of Becoming Beloved Community is pictured as a labyrinth that winds in and out of four quadrants. This represents the reality that growth toward this vision requires personal, spiritual work and external activity, through a long process of growing, struggling, trying, learning, and forgiving and seeking forgiveness.
At St. Barnabas, the Becoming Beloved Community Committee has decided to start this journey in the quadrant of Proclaiming the Dream. We are exploring ways to start by learning about the truth in our own experiences, through discussion, collaborative training, and learning to be open to the experiences and perceptions of people who are different from ourselves. As we pursue this “heart-work,” we expect that God will help us understand how we can best be of service to our parish and our neighbors.
Our committee members are Earline Fechter, Steve Gibson, Mev Hammond, Jim Hill, Larry James, Jason Oden, Deb Ramsey, Della Rucker, and Bethanie Van Camp. Our co-chairs are Nicole A. Hershey and Jason Williams. We have been meeting monthly since introducing Becoming Beloved Community to the parish in June.
If you would like to participate in our Becoming Beloved Community Committee, please feel free to contact any of the committee members. We meet the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30–8:30 p.m. in the Great Hall. We invite all interested to sit in on a meeting, join the committee, or stay tuned for opportunities to engage in our efforts.
You can learn more about this nationwide initiative within The Episcopal Church at https://episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community.
You can learn more about the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s participation in this initiative at http://dsobeloved.org.