“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.” ~Dorothy
“The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole.” ―Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging
Recently I was reminded of the multiple communities to which I belong. There are communities based on identity: UU, UU Ministers, 4th year of settled ministry cohorts, GLBTQ, Interfaith; on geography: Heartland UU Ministers, MidAmerica Region, UU Congregation of Fort Wayne, New Englander; on education: Class of 93, 97, 2009, Andover Newton Alum; and there are communities that intersect like the Ohio River Ministers’ Study Group.
Being Unitarian Universalist is also an experience of intersecting communities due to theology, geography, ministry, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, race, ability, etc.
When I became a Unitarian Universalist, I realized the importance of community and belonging. Day’s quote reminded me of the love I experienced in that church community which filled a loneliness that could not be filled by family. It was a love that was transforming and expanding. A love that broke my heart open so that I might receive the gifts and grace of being interconnected and belonging to that little stone UU church in central MA, and an entire association of congregations.
Often I hear how the church is like a family, particularly from those who have been searching for a spiritual home with people who seek to live life with open minds and open hearts. I hear this sentiment from our elders and our newest members. I confess it’s not the best description a church can give itself. To belong to a family one must either be born into it or be in relationship with someone on the inside. Sometimes months and years are invested into becoming part of a family and finally experiencing the moment of belonging. Family is insular.
In this month of May, as we explore and celebrate what it means to be community, let us take time to listen to how we speak of our church, our spiritual community of pluralistic theologies and shared values, a community that inspires growth, seeks knowledge, accepts differences, and deepens compassion to build a just world; a community of people who strive to be a community beacon of social change and spiritual exploration. Let us be connected, caring for the whole, rather than insular or self-serving; may we engage in the work of transformation for ourselves and our world.
See you in church ~Rev. Misty-Dawn Shelly