We cannot offer to others what we do not have

“The cause of suffering is when good people begin their work and fail to notice what is arising between them.” –Dalai Lama

In such a time of significant change, it is challenging to pause and simply notice. Even more than challenging, it is radical and goes against the grain of business-as-usual. For those of us interested in transformative change, this noticing and reflection are necessary. It’s what Paulo Freire termed “critical consciousness” and is a practice that grows capacity to be both “in the world and not of it”, a practice that as followers of Jesus, we are committed to. It is in this spirit that I’ll return to regular reflection and writing on what I’m noticing in the work of Becoming Beloved Community.

It seems fitting to begin with the Becoming Beloved Community leadership team.The team includes Larry James, co-convener; Rev. Michelle Dayton, co-convener; Miriam McKenney; Ariel Miller; Deborah Stokes-Wayne; Rev. Rick Incorvati; Catherine Duffy; Rev. Christopher Richardson; Jason Williams; Rev. Melanie Slane; and Amy Howton.

We cannot offer to others what we do not have.

We cannot bring forth healing, reconciliation, and justice-making unless we experience and practice this among ourselves. If we act from our wounds, from our fear or pain, then we are merely reacting and transferring that pain. Responsible action from the ability to respond, not from our wound but from love. Becoming Beloved Community leadership team is committed to practicing this form of leadership. We are learning a lot.

For example, at the end of March, the team engaged two guides to lead us in a two-day retreat. As new members joined the team–including Rev. Christopher Richardson; Rev. Melanie Slane; and Jason Williams–there was a need to (re)set a strong foundation. Deadlines for budget requests and issues of calendaring were seductive in keeping us stuck in patterns of fear and scarcity of resources. Feeling this pull, we wondered, “How might we create from love and abundance?” During the retreat, we dared to ask ourselves: “Who do we choose to be, now? What are our values? What is our dream? What gives us energy now?”

This foundational time together prepared us to then name and address critical strategic questions together as we moved through collaboratively drafting the budget proposal. For example, what are the historical and current relationships between and among Dismantling Racism, Social Justice and Policy Policy, and Becoming Beloved Community? What are the current relationships between Reparations Task Force, Creation Care and Environmental Justice Task Force,  and Interfaith? And how do we want these relationships to grow? Additionally, what do we dream for our diocese? And then being honest about what we need to bring that dream to life. Collective consideration of these questions required trust and relationship; had we not invested in the foundational work as a team, asking these questions would have been much more challenging.

As we were working on the budget proposal, other issues arose that called for our response. Staying connected through this time rooted us in our values and supported the team’s capacity to  “walk the talk”. For example, it is risky to tell the truth and raise concerns about financial operations at the same time as submitting a budget proposal requesting funding. This risk is a key reason that systems function so powerfully–they are designed to maintain status quo. And these risks are part of the work of transformation. We find courage and inspiration and accountability in working together, reminding ourselves of our mission and purpose, and continuously returning to scripture and Jesus’ life for guidance.

Making time to resource ourselves, as a team, is crucial in realizing our mission. Each moment as we navigate these times together, we are Becoming Beloved Community. We cannot offer to others what we do not have.