by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
“…the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends.… It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The intentional use of the phrase “the Beloved Community” was first coined by the early twentieth-century American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916), who wrote “My life means nothing, either theoretically or practically, unless I am a member of a community.” Royce observed that, besides the actual communities we experience on a daily basis, there was also an ideal “beloved community” made up of all those who would be dedicated fully to the cause of loyalty, truth and reality itself. Royce founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a movement that was later joined by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Most of us know Beloved Community from how Dr. King took that concept forward into social justice. His beloved community vision centered on the belief that racism, bigotry and prejudices will one day be replaced ‘by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood’ and that ‘poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.’
I love the quote above, one of the first that established the idea of a shining Beloved Community in the minds of the people of the United States in the 1956 – the year before I was born. And 65 years later, the message of transforming love and the beloved community is as current now as it was then.
The question is – is the church today a place where the beloved community can emerge and flourish?
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul put it like this: “It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus. You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”
We must work, in the spirit of Dr. King and Dr. Royce, to ensure that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (I Corinthians 12:25). To ensure our congregations and members and leaders know and experience the reciprocity, vulnerability and kindness that move our churches toward becoming beloved communities. And that ew show it actively to all people outside our congregations as well.
May we together continue to move toward the creation of the beloved community, as we go about our work for the Kingdom with a time spent that is always flexible, unhurried and kind. May we embrace each other’s vulnerability and value as we continue to discover what matters most. May we all, as one in union with Christ Jesus, direct our hearts to reconciliation and redemption, to bring about that exuberant gladness of a new age, grounded in the Beloved Community.