— Does Beloved Community Assume Right Relationships As a Premise?

May 16, 2013 at 8:25 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

Rev. Christine Robinson’s latest post about Beloved Community on her iMinister blog voices similar thoughts and feelings I’ve had as a New UU about the phrase “Beloved Community.”  Read her blog here.

In addition to what she says, I’ve been trying to understand whether the phrase  is meant to be aspirational, when used in UU pulpits. Or, do congregants really believe their community is “beloved?” I do know that many at my home church, for example, strive to care and relate together as a  beloved organism. Many of us, including me, use the phrase to express our feeling and commitment. But it is one of those phrases that I stop to consider at times when I marvel at the nuances in religious life.

When I first heard the phrase in 2009, I set out to read as much of Martin Luther King’s theological writings as I could. I also spent a long time studying “love” in the religious sense, reading from many faith traditions. I recently circled back to MLK. The phrase still sounds a little strange for a variety of reasons, some of which Rev. Robinson discusses in her post.

I find it problematic when put it in context of right relationships. The way congregants treat each other and ministers, and vice versa, is often way out of line.  The way the UUA and congregations relate to one another at times appears disingenuous, if not in direct conflict. I mean: The UUA serves congregations and yet it also acts as a clearing house of employment for clergy, thus determining the careers of ministers, by and large. Isn’t this a conflict of interest of significant proportion? It’s a necessary service and role, to be sure, but what about a system of checks and balances?

For example, a church I respect greatly is struggling with interim life before a new senior minister is called. Some have said that the years of love and relational culture it has worked so hard to build have been severely damaged. Many are turning away from their “Beloved.” Some leaders, I’ve been told, fear retribution from the UUA if  the congregation tries to find a way to deal with the situation that departs from standard procedures. Others want to suffer in silence and wait out the period because  any rocking of the blue boat may make it harder to attract new candidates.  It could be worse, some have said.

Folks, I have to admit this line of talk sounds a little like that of an emotionally battered spouse – helpless: “I can take it because it’s better than the alternative….”  What?

And then, there is a lot of swirl  that assumes there is no flexibility in procedures, which I suspect is not true.

Meanwhile, many congregations can feel like  community centers and not houses of faith tied together by a denominational identity, despite the UUA’s best efforts to bring us all together.

How are we to attempt to sustain and create something akin to a Beloved Community if there is fear in the search and call process? I am an observer here during this season of new calls. I’m just continuing to share the thoughts of a New UU who is grappling with understanding the complexities of church life and relationships — fundamental ingredients for our communities both online and offline.

Human nature, oy what a concept but oh what a marvel and wonder! And, here’s to a growing understanding of what “Beloved Community” might mean!

I am grateful to all ministers who are blogging and participating in social media. Collectively, you all, whether you know it or not, make it easier  for spontaneous UU adult self study and reflection.

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