Connecting Across Our Province

Several members from our diocese recently attended the Big Provincial Gathering, on July 12-13 Kalamazoo, Michigan from July 12-13. This gathering was hosted by and for Province V, also called the Province of the Midwest, which is one of nine ecclesiastical provinces making up the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It comprises fifteen dioceses across the six midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The theme of the gathering was “Connect. Support. Network.”

This Provincial Gathering also provided an opportunity for those engaged deeply in the work of Becoming Beloved Community to reconvene. In April, a group including Bishops, lay leaders, clergy, and community members, met at Bellwether Farm to explore how Becoming Beloved Community was growing in their particular, local contexts. Meeting in Kalamazoo as part of this larger gathering was an important next step in continuing to grow in Becoming Beloved Community.

The group connected over the two days–both informally and more formally–to reflect on learning experiences, making meaning of our shared work, and generate ideas around collaboration and action. Below are a few key insights that emerged from the group’s reflection and dialogue:

  • Becoming Beloved Community calls for both a different way of being and a different way of doing.Focusing simply on the doing and actions of Becoming Beloved Community and healing and justice work, runs the risk of perpetuating business-as-usual.
  • Learning to be with suffering is core. There cannot be healing or reconciliation without telling the truth. Telling the truth involves naming and hearing suffering. We must learn to be with this suffering rather than avoid it due to fear or discomfort. With that suffering comes communion and a sense of connection and belonging and through that process comes healing.
  • Oppressed groups want the truth to come out; Dominant groups want to jump right into action. How we might stay together as we move forward?
  • There is an opportunity to build and share as we grow. While we try and fail and try again, there is a responsibility to share with others lessons learned so that we can contribute to the movement of Becoming Beloved Community.
  • The need to embrace discomfort. One of the group members asked if anyone in the group was feeling uncomfortable. The general response was an emphatic, “No!”. Then, we have a problem. We should all be feeling uncomfortable. Drawing on the story of Rwanda’s growth and transformation, he reminded us that transformation and liberation requires for an openness and “comfort with discomfort”.
  • The group voiced the need to name The Episcopal Church as a corporation and treat it as such in working to create change. AND the group acknowledged that the Church aspires to be much more than a corporation, compelled not by profit or membership but by God and Spirit. As one of the group members proclaimed, “We can condemn but it we gots to live in it.” This critical consciousness will allow for radically honest and effective strategies in dismantling old power structures and breathing life into new ones.

Feeling synergy and connection the group wondered what structures were needed to support the group’s continued growth? How might we stay connected with one another in Becoming Beloved Community?

The group identified several concrete next steps including exploring a grant opportunity that will fund community-building; creating online platforms to stay engaged and share resources; and scheduling regular zoom calls to drive shared learning and relationship.