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Cultivating Beloved Community

Beloved Community is CBF Virginia’s 2017-18 theme. The expression “Beloved Community” was coined by American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916), but most of us became aware of the term Beloved Community from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King declared, “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.” For King, building Beloved Community connoted the hard work of reconciliation, redemption, and being in right relationship, including “transforming opponents into friends.”

Dr. King’s Beloved Community possesses a global vision in which “poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”

In many ways Beloved Community is another way to describe what Jesus called the Kingdom of God. Following the Jesus’ way means practicing radical kindness and compassion today just as Jesus did when he walked on earth. Jesus’ love transcends cultural and tribal divisions. G.K. Chesterton said it this way: Beloved Community “has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

We believe Beloved Community is congruent with CBF’s focus on forming together and partnering to renew God’s world. When we think about “forming together” the question, “What does God seek to form and shape in our lives, in our congregations, and in the communities we serve?” springs forth. Do we really believe God seeks to birth compassion and embody unconditional love? Is God forming within us capacity for inclusion, reconciliation, justice, and peace?

Beloved Community is not just a friendly-sounding phrase. Beloved Community is a calling that leads to action for the common good. Among other things, building Beloved Community is an antidote to the toxicity of politics and culture in America. I look forward to innovative ideas and wonderful ways individuals and congregations across the Commonwealth will deepen Beloved Community this coming year.