Friday, July 29, 2016
Beloved Community: Dreaming the Impossible Dream
Somewhere in every heart is a longing for home. We’ve all felt that deep ache. I first felt it when I was 7 sent off to summer camp while my family moved to a new home. The ache was so deep; the resident Collie feeling a small child’s pain lay down with me each day while I wept. Home is where we feel we belong.
At the end of the Wiz, Dorothy sings “When I think of home I think of a place with love overflowing”. To belong should mean to feel loved. I was loved; we were loved not only by my family but by a brilliant and compassionate community of women. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Community was my first clan, my first Beloved Community. They were our mentors and our role models; we were raised to be as they were - to offer love to others. Hospitality and welcome to all persons were their core value and ours. Women of Great Heart is the motto of the high school I attended. We were aspiring to be women of Great Heart. I was home there.
For the past week we have been celebrating and exploring what it means to be a community this year and beyond. Speakers have explored God’s Dream for Community, through readings from the Old and New Testament. This article is the first of six exploring aspects of the Beloved Community. Here we introduce the Beloved Community and visit an example of a Beloved Community in Seattle.
I first learned of the Beloved Community in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Rev. Nelson Johnson, founded the community after he was stabbed by a klansman and arrested during an anti-klan rally in 1979 which he helped organize. The Beloved Community was the vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.” “The core value of Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative. ”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” King said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.” It seemed clear to me that this was an unattainable goal. So, I wondered, “what does this have to do with me, with us, when we live in a world that is being torn apart by violence and hatred?
How can Beloved Community, King’s commitment to love all, enemy or friend, empower me and my community to survive and thrive?
Philosopher, Josiah Royce, first explained the Beloved Community in the late 1800s. For Royce, Beloved Community is central to transforming the heart of humanity. It is how we will make it through the chaotic times in which we are living. An overwhelming love, Royce tells us is exactly what we need to be human. For Royce, in order to have a meaningful life, we must find a cause, a life purpose, that is born in our life experience and is inspired from within to seek truth and kindness. For a cause to be good, it must be greater than anyone or any community can attain and it must be good for everyone not just a few. Royce called this a lost cause because we are aspiring to an ideal we can never attain. We are all Don Quixote chasing the impossible dream. Sister Simone told us, “you’ll know you’ve found your cause when it breaks your heart open”. Royce believed that causes are found in the social landscapes in which we live; we find a home in communities where we share their cause. The Civil Rights movement of Dr. King, and the Beloved Community of Reverend Johnson were communities with a shared cause.
Every good fight fought in this world has started with a heart broken open. Malala’s dream is education for girls everywhere. Mother Teresa’s was a good death for everyone. For Jimmy Carter it is homes for all. Impossible dreams are found in communities of dreamers and while we can’t reach the ultimate dream, our search moves us to accomplish amazing things.
For a number of years, Hillary Clinton has reached out with heart, hand, and treasure to Children, families, youth in prison, dreamers, immigrants, refugees, women and girls worldwide. Having known the ache of being far from home, I was more than delighted to learn of this place where the longing for home is made whole for women and girls like me. If you are looking to be inspired you won’t want to rest until your heart breaks open. Our prayer is that by exploring Beloved Community we will the renew our commitment to Agape, hold our Beloved Community together, and renew our commitment to the Impossible Dream, inspiring the amazing work we do. May it be so.