On April 8-10, dioceses from across Province V, including Diocese of Southern Ohio, Diocese of Ohio, Diocese of Michigan, Diocese of Northern Michigan, and Diocese of Chicago gathered at Bellwether Farm to learn and grow, together. Rev. Charles “Chuck” Wynder, Staff Officer for Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement and Heidi Kim, Staff Officer, Racial Reconciliation led us in dialogue and visioning.
Cherie Bridges Patrick, co-convener of our diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Task Force and Amy Howton, Becoming Beloved Community Coordinator represented our diocese.
The group shared both challenges their respective diocese faced in the call to Become Beloved Community, as well as evidence of how beloved community is being realized.
At the conclusion of gathering, the leadership team shared guidance for coalition-building as a Province:
- identify two people from each diocese to be co-conveners
- develop guiding principles and shared interests
- create a plan
- create opportunities for substantive and cross-diocesan engagement
The opportunity to build coalition across dioceses generated deep interest in participants. By doing so, Province V could collectively seek shared practice and language through a community of practice by using primary principles of the learning organization (from the field of organizational development and a term from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline). It was shared that by developing a community of practice, the Province could collectively nurture new patterns of thinking, unleash a collective vision and learning that fosters alignment in theory and practice on all levels–individual, churches, and systems.
Interestingly, Cherie and Amy were joining this group directly following the second gathering of our diocesan community of practice. This provided a ripe opportunity for the two to reflect on diocesan efforts and imagine how we might build on these efforts, both in our diocesan and beyond.
The network approach of building coalition and developing communities of practice generally seemed to align with the wisdom emerging from the group in terms of what has been learned from decades of previous efforts in justice-making in the Church. This is clear: Becoming Beloved Community is not a program; it is not a substitute for anti-racism training. This process is one of spiritual formation and asks of us not what can we do, but how might we be with and in God?
This poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero was offered to bring the group into right relationship and to invite participation in Becoming Beloved Community. It is offered here for your contemplation, as you open to Becoming:
We Are Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Cherie Bridges Patrick, co-convener of our diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Task Force and Amy Howton, Becoming Beloved Community Coordinator attended and were able to share learning from our own local efforts to build a community of practice.