From our Lead Minister
“…the aftermath of violence is bitterness; the aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community… It does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent but to win his (sic) friendship and understanding… This is a method that seeks to transform and to redeem, and win the friendship of the opponent, and make it possible for men (sic) to live together as brothers (sic) in a community, and not continually live with bitterness and friction. Martin Luther King Jr. from “Justice without Violence,” April 3, 1957
It is our mission to build beloved community. We long to be able to actually be a beloved community. Oh how difficult it is to put solid foundations under that dream. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that. His vision of beloved community was conceived in the Progressive Protestant Free Church tradition, influenced by the Hindu leader Gandhi’s vision of non-violent communities that moved a whole nation, and practiced with civil rights activists in mid-20th century. King worked for racial justice with a diverse of group of people who did not agree on many things. They practiced different religions or none at all. Some were young passionate grass roots organizers. Others were old experienced union organizers with socialist and communist roots. Some worked for very organized national organizations like the NAACP that included members with both more liberal and more conservative views on methodology than his. Many had no interest in non-violence or talk of beloved community. Day to day organizing was not MLK’s strong suit. People looked to him for his charisma and communication skills. What made that civil rights movement work was that they were all in alignment long enough to change the history of a nation. They were able to live for a few moments, however briefly, as a beloved community that included white allies and black separatists, gradualists and revolutionaries, who sought to understand one another and find common ground. They were effective agents of moving towards racial justice during those brief moments of alignment.
Many Unitarians were involved with that movement, two even gave their lives to it. They did so because our faith has its own philosophy of alignment and vision of beloved community summed up in the words “We need not think alike to love alike.” These words have been attributed to different religious ancestors but as far as we know they came out of the emerging understanding of our historical faith in the 20th century. That history includes progressive Protestantism and enlightenment philosophies that valued the ongoing, never-ending search for truth above settling in on one right answer. So how do a bunch of always-learning, ever-thinking, new ideas kind of people build community? They have to use the same methodology as beloved community. This method is not based on debate, which ends with “winners” who have the “right” answer. Instead, it is based on dialogue, getting to know one another well enough to understand both our differences of opinion and our shared goals.
Many progressive movements, religious and political, have trouble forming this kind of community. We are sometimes better at stating our opinions than listening to others. We may want to come to church to get away from these stresses in the larger world, but honestly, we all care about justice as passionately as our non-church going neighbors. We can’t leave that passion out of church any more than we can check our intelligence at the door.
So what would a Beloved Community do? We would listen to one another’s diverse opinions for understanding and friendship. Here we call it Holy Listening. (You may want to come to the Holy Listening Class to practice that part! – see below). Come to church. Show up with your full self – your passions, your opinions, ears that listen and hearts that love. We will never all have the same opinion, but we can be understanding friends who learn to hold one another with love.
With faith and love,
Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31, Fireside Room (main building)
This class, with Lead Minister Gail Seavey and Assistant Minister Holly Mueller, is for anyone who has asked, “How can I help?” when a friend or family member is, for example, in the hospital or experiencing a difficult transition such as the death of a loved one. It will cover the ministries of visiting, listening, and sending cards. This class, which uses How Can I Help by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, is open to all who are interested. Additionally, it is required of anyone considering joining the FUUN lay ministry team, and will include discerning one’s gifts for lay pastoral ministry. Contact Rev. Gail if you have any questions.