The Beloved Community
Our closing service of the school year includes our Flower Communion and Child Dedication. We also honor our graduating seniors (high school and college) during the service. What a wonderful way to conclude our Spring season worship. What better way to celebrate this day than to lift up the goal of becoming a “beloved community.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated this idea which was at the heart of his dream about what our society might one day become. King believed that a community of love, justice and solidarity would eventually be actualized. That is why he worked unceasingly for the realization of his dream. Our talk for this service explores the idea of the beloved community as a model for congregation life, and for local communities. In this way the dream is more than a Utopian fantasy. The hard work of becoming more inclusive, more just and more loving is possible at the neighborhood, congregation and local level. The writer Wendell Berry once suggested this at the end of his poem “Work Song”:
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.
Community is the antidote to our lonely world; life together heals the isolation that characterizes too many peoples’ lives. American individualism apart from community leaves us unfulfilled and separated. The truth is, we are in this together, and pursuing a common good through service to others, ironically brings individual happiness. King’s dream of the beloved community came out of his own deep Christian experience. He was drawing deeply from the wellspring of Older and Newer Testaments, as well as his interpretation of Christian Pentecost. King also drew upon the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and other religious traditions. As we look out over the world of religions we see a vision of community expressed again and again.
As we gather together to bless our children, to honor our youth, and to receive the blessings of beauty from the renewed earth, we celebrate being together as “the Beloved Community.”