As we set out to design the foundation for this first year of bringing Becoming Beloved Community to life in our diocese, we began by listening to our community. To date, nineteen Episcopalians from across the diocese have shared their stories with us about what Becoming Beloved Community means to them–their longings and fears.
In response to what we heard, we have focused on developing relationships. This means we have shifted our focus a bit from developing Becoming Beloved Community Centers to bringing people together to learn and build deep, transformative relationships and practices. It is through intentional, authentic relationships that we create transformation in ourselves and in our communities. We need each other as we follow Jesus.
So, we are offering an intensive learning journey that will provide us structure in building new relationships in Becoming Beloved Community.
To give you a sense of what this learning journey is responding to and how Becoming Beloved Community is already unfolding in our hearts and minds, below are the themes that have emerged from the stories that have been shared with me in the role of Becoming Beloved Community Coordinator over the past twelve weeks. For those of you who shared your story with me, thank you. Your truth-telling has been invaluable in shaping this year’s foundation.
If you are considering joining the learning journey and are curious about what kind of community we are seeking to create, the community-based insights below might shed some light on who is already stepping up to Become Beloved Community.
This is our Jesus movement. Join us. Apply now; the deadline is Friday, January 18.
Themes from Becoming Beloved Community Stories (from October 2019-December 2019)
- “There’s the feeling that they [Black Churches] don’t belong. With UBE, Absalom Jones, we’ve made a concerted effort that this is your home. The entire diocese. Slowly but not there yet.”
- “It’s easy to come to church but when you see the ugly, it’s really hard. I’ve experienced some things. I was a Black senior warden. I heard comments.”
- “The Episcopal Church has excluded African Americans from the get-go. I don’t know how long that lasted. Until the 1960s?”
- “We need to start with our own Genesis. Truth telling. What is real in the Episcopal Church?”
- “The Black churches want to be recognized. They don’t feel like they belong. They don’t feel like the Cathedral is theirs, too.”
Becoming Beloved Community is not a program. It’s a way of being.
- “Some of the resistance you might get from the diocese is that we go from thing to thing to thing. The built in fear is that this is just another thing. It will blow over. Why should we invest?”
- “We know this is going to be hard. Hard. White people have a lot of trouble recognizing bias within themselves. Less difficult recognizing it when it’s overt. I don’t think they connect when they have normal biases; they can’t see themselves having racist behaviors.”
- “This can’t be a flavor of the month. Some people will perceive it that way. We’ll have to move slow and deliberate.”
Within and beyond the Episcopal Church
- “Bring national speakers. We’ve invited other faiths—AME, Lutheran—and their congregations. We’re reaching out and having open discussions. We need to learn from others outside The Episcopal Church.”
- “Across faiths. I’m inspired by our Faith Alliance. It started with friendship. Now, we’re organizing community events together. We share more in common.”
- “Churches are very siloed. I know this because I’ve experienced this. Let’s start by getting to know other neighbor churches.”
What is the role of White Episcopalians in the work of racial justice?
- “I don’t want to teach well-intentioned white people how to be humans.”
- “There are a lot of us who believe, ‘We don’t have any Black people so why this Beloved Community stuff ?’ This needs to be more clearly defined. Defined in such a way that is both/and; multiple/and. Not simply one or the other.”
- “I accept everybody. That is what being Christian is about. Our church is all white. Maybe in Cincinnati there is a need since you’ve got more Blacks and Latinos. But where we are…”
- “Expanding the anti-racism training and embrace ideas of BCC more broadly so that anti-racism training becomes more about building something as opposed to dismantling it.”
- “Grants should not be for a dinner. But to explore your own stuff.”
Going beyond charity
- “The church’s emphasis on charity work and feeling really good about what we do because we collected backpacks. Moving that to an understanding of what it looks like to bring justice to the community. As long as we continue to lift up the wonderful things people are doing that are easy, we are not engaging the harder work of justice. How do we move congregations into the direction of justice work?”
- “We stopped giving stuff out. What we found was that the tenor of the dinner changed. Quieter. People were sitting and having conversations. The basis of the relationships in the community—built on this power dynamic; everybody is lonely. I don’t know how to do it without asking for stuff. How do just be in relationship?”
- “It’s a helping model. We feel good because we have filled someone’s belly. Only half the struggle.”
How might we Become Beloved Community?
- “We have to start by changing the conversation. If you can’t do that as Christ-based religion, how can you hope to achieve anything?”
- “Dialogue will be key. Create opportunities to listen and share. Invite “different perspectives and you get to have the conversations in real way.”
- “We have to have courageous conversations. It’s not going to be easy.”
- Relationship building:
- “No change will happen until it changes within your heart. Creating the circumstance for that transformation will be heard. There will be resistance. As long as we are pressing on this, they won’t participate. We don’t have a choice.”
- “It’s all about personal relationships. Friendships.”
- “Listening. Listening some more. And really allowing the change to come from the community.”
- Conflict negotiation:
- “Often times when you’re in a group and casual conversations, people start letting down your guard. Maybe it’s time to be offensive, engage conflict, so that we know our inner feelings and know where we stand and what we need to do to be together.”
- “Conflict leads to growth. But we don’t know how to have hard conversations anymore. There’s a tendency to avoid them.”
- “We need tools to engage productive conflict in order to move to a place of understanding and connection.”
- Political advocacy and action:
- “Political advocacy. Working for just and equitable laws. Laws that bring justice to community. Engaging political officials correctly—on a localized level, going to the mayor’s office, doing direct action. Going to the fed level, really being out there.”
- “Why did that person need that coat? The system is broken. Let’s address the system.”
- Beyond Charity into Authentic Relationships:
- “Designing ways for people to come together in so
- me kind of superficial ways. The real work becomes how do we talk about going deeper. Don’t pat yourself on the back the women’s group…to come one time. How do you extend that relationship to make it into a relationship?”
- “Courageous conversations and collective action require us to know we have each others’ back. And are willing to do anything for each other.”
- “We can’t be the White Savior, perpetuate that model of helping.”