Are We A Beloved Community?

Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with familial affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

When the Apostle Paul addressed the above words to his community in Rome, somehow he knew that it wouldn’t be religious rules, regulations, or legalisms that would be compelling enough for people to stick with the church. As a child, all I knew of the church were rules, regulations, and legalisms. It was easy to walk away. Then I started to meet people whose love was genuine. When they looked at me they saw a person, not a project or a prospect. They extended honor to me, even though I didn’t think I deserved it. I had experienced church in the past, but until then I had not experienced people who exemplified mercy, grace, and love. I wanted to be part of a community where people were beloved.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became acquainted with a Vietnamese monk by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh. In their conversations, they spoke of their dreams of building community. Dr. King called this kind of community, “the beloved community.”

In his book, The Art of Living, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“The key elements in a beloved community are love, trust, joy, harmony, and brotherhood and sisterhood. When we can generate understanding and compassion in our way of being and working together, everyone we interact with feels that energy right away and is able to profit from it. We can create moments to listen deeply to one another’s insights and difficulties, or a relaxing moment with tea and cookies where we take time just to be fully present for each other. Our community can become a source of support and a place of refuge for many people. We nourish our community in our lifetime, and it carries us forward into the future.”  (p. 64)

This month, we lost another champion of the beloved community whose voice will be sorely missed. He writes, “We are one people; we are only family. And when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King’s dream to build a beloved community, a nation, and a world at peace with itself.”  (U.S. Representative John Lewis, 1940-2020)

Even in our current pandemic, even when we are isolated and socially distant, it is good to remember that all of us who belong to Naples UCC are called to be and to become a beloved community, not bound by rules, regulations, or legalisms, but compelled by mercy, grace, and love.

Rev. Dr. David Kaiser-Cross
Executive Minister

For City and County Leaders:
God of infinite, unmeasurable power, the power you gave to humans in the beginning was the power to be caretakers. Grant our leaders the reminder and the insight to serve as caretakers. Amen.