Pain-in-the-Neck Community

At the New to UU class on Sunday, one of the participants asked about this concept of Beloved Community.  What is it?  I have my little schtick about it (a theological concept created by Josiah Royce, popularized my MLK, a community grounded in non-violence, where we work on expressing radical love for others, ourselves and for the greater world through acts of compassion and justice).  But, like with any of these kinds of “spiritually” words, it still felt vague– a little ooey-gooey.    And then this article came out in the UU World: “We are people who put windows in doors.”

Author Liz James says” I entered a time in my life when community became a lot less “beloved” to me. People failed me. There were power struggles. People were not brave, or compassionate. wasn’t brave, or compassionate. I knew I was supposed to forgive and begin again, but I really didn’t feel like it…”

After reflecting on how and why they installed windows in the minister’s office door (hint: it’s about creating structures of transparency and accountability, no matter who sits in that office!), James goes on to say ”

I am no longer a believer in Beloved Community. Not that safe and sacred space where we are all “woke,” or kind, or even trying our best every single day. But I am still a believer in community—regular community—filled with people who are a mix of incredibly beautiful, profoundly broken, and sometimes just run-of-the-mill pain-in-the-neck.

“Pain-in-the-neck community” has an honesty to it.

For one thing, I can belong there. I can be good enough for that world. I can give it my all, pour myself into it, and I can fail. And when I do, I have more to hold on to than aspiration and a promise to do better. There’s also the promise that I won’t do better—not always.

Frankly, I would say that I’ve always understood “Beloved Community” as “Pain-in-the-neck” community.  My wife and child are beloved to me– and they are also often frustrating and always imperfect.   But I get James’ point– words sound romantic and beautiful and we can often forget the grit and discomfort behind them.  It’s good to remember that Beloved Community IS Pain-in-the-neck community.

I look forward to worship with you this Sunday–Blossomings Come celebrate the glorious beauty we are surrounded by at this time of year (if your allergies allow!) Please wear your boots or sneakers and a coat as you will be invited to take a brief contemplative walk (or do a sitting) into the surrounding almond orchard as part of the worship service! Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and Sabine Klein.

 

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