Thus He whose tender mercies are over all His works hath placed a principle in the human mind, which incites to exercise goodness towards every living creature; and this being singly attended to, people become tender-hearted and sympathizing; but when frequently and totally rejected, the mind becomes shut up in a contrary disposition.
Perhaps community is a constellation. Each one of us is a light in the emerging collective brightness. A constellation of light has the greater power of illumination than any single light would have on its own. Together we increase brightness.-
There is something of God in every man, let us affirm it more certainly than ever, but surrounded as we are by millions of new-made graves and with the voices of the hungry and the dispossessed in our ears, let us not easily accept the impious hope that the natural goodness of ourselves is sufficient stuff out of which to fashion a better world.
To end war and violence means having a better world, but that is impossible unless the people in it grow better. No relationship is finer than the people who compose it. Those who are endeavoring to abolish war, therefore, must themselves strive hard to become better people by living better lives.
It isn’t about being ‘the perfect community’ but about being ‘the beloved community.’ … [Dr. King] had a vision, a dream, that people could come together with a shared commitment to reconciliation and overcoming barriers, to rejecting racism, injustice and violence. That sounds like a utopian vision, and many people see it that way. But [Dr.] King didn’t advocate for or expect the eradication of all the differences and difficulties of being human… He believed that only the love of God was powerful enough to overcome hate and injustice and fear, and to bring flawed human beings together. That’s the beloved community: people who believe deeply that they are loved by God and that everyone around them is loved by God, too; people who believe this deeply enough that it shapes who they are and how they live their lives and how they deal with their own and each other’s brokenness.
I understand the term Beloved Community to mean an inclusive, interrelated society based on love, justice, compassion, responsibility, shared power and a respect for all people, places, and things—a society that radically transforms individuals and restructures institutions.
The term “Beloved Community” can be traced back to Josiah Royce (1855-1916), the 19th century American religious philosopher. It was a part of the popular theological vocabulary of Boston University’s School of Theology during the early 1950s, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a doctoral student there. Royce characterized the Beloved Community as “a spiritual or divine community capable of achieving the highest good as well as the common good.”
How to Use Grounding Quotes
Here are some suggestions for exploring the introductory essays, texts, and videos in the Grounding section of each topic. Be creative and consider using different processing techniques over time in order to spark the various learning styles of your participants: discussion, personal reflection, artistic expression, music, worship sharing, creative writing, and deep listening.
Friendly Bible Study
The Friendly Bible Study process applies to Scripture as well as other materials. This process is good for a group of newcomers and old timers, allowing participants to speak about what is exciting and what is problematic about the text.
Find the Truth
Choose one idea or sentence that rings true for you. Share with a partner an experience you have had that relates to that sentence/idea.
What Do You Notice?
Shorter variations might be: What one phrase or idea sticks out for you? Sit with it for a few minutes and see what rises for you. Now journal/share with a partner.
Draw or doodle in response to this text. Allow yourself to be Spirit led – what color do you want to pick up, and how do you want to use it? This is not art for to view. This is exploration and expression. Alternatively, invite participants to make a visual or 3D response to the text using art materials such as clay or play dough, magazines for collage, paint, mural paper, pipe cleaners, objects from nature (acorns, feathers, grasses, flowers, seeds, bark), or building blocks or Legos.
Visit the Text in Worship
Sit in worship with this material. Let it work on you. Try not to “think” about it – just let it sit on your lap and soak in. Now, turn to your partner and share something about your visit with this text.
Write your reaction to the text, how it applies to your life today, what you’re grappling with, or what you’re grateful for. Use one of the General Questions for Reflection or free-write. In general, journal writing is kept confidential.
Set it to Music
If you have a group that is willing to be creative, break into small groups and ask each group to write a tune for the quotation or an excerpt (or assign a different quotation to each group). Tunes are a great way to “memorize” quotations so that they will stick with you. Check out Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong for some beautiful examples.
Share a quotation, introductory essay, QuakerSpeak video link, or set of quotations with group participants. In preparation for the next Spiritual Deepening group session, give the participants some “homework” to do. This could include:
- reflecting on the text during their daily spiritual practice or during Meeting for Worship
- journaling about their response to the text
- rewriting the message in their own words
- writing a prayer about the topic
- finding a song, object, or image that represents to them the theme of the message
- creating a piece of art that illustrates their response
As part of your next group sessions, invite participants to share or report back on their homework assignment.
Settle into worship and invite participants to speak into the silence and share their thoughts about a query. Craft a query directly related to the text or choose one of the General Questions for Reflection. A more detailed description of worship sharing can be found here.
Treat the quotation as a holy text and pay attention to how it speaks to you. Learn more about the Lectio Divina process.
Ask a question that will elicit one-word answers or short phrases. On a flipchart paper, record the responses as participants share. Consider questions such as: What word stands out to me in this text? What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message? What question do I want to ask Spirit about this message? Invite participants to comment on what they notice about the brainstorm list.
Invite participants to briefly contemplate the quotation and then respond to a writing prompt. Create a prompt specifically related to the text or choose one of the General Questions for Reflection.
Pair-Share or Triads
Divide the group into pairs or sets of three to discuss the quotation. Return to a large group and share any themes that arose.
Ask a question directly related to the text or choose one of the General Questions for Reflection.
Make it Personal
Rewrite the quote in your own words or to reflect contemporary society and language.
General Questions for Reflection:
- How is the Divine/Truth/Love speaking to me through this text?
- What experience in my life reflects the message of this text?
- What do I have to learn from this message?
- What resonates with me in this quotation?
- What stands out to me in this text?
- What surprised me about this message?
- What questions arise about my life as I contemplate this message?
- What canst thou say? (What do I have to say in response to this message?)
- What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message?
- An image that comes to mind as I listen to this quotation is…
- Where is the growing edge for me around this issue?
- If I could rephrase this message in my own words, I would say…
- This Truth tastes like… (smells like… sounds like… feels like… looks like….)
- In relation to this topic, I used to be.…., but now I’m ……
- I’d like to ask Spirit / the Universe / God / the Inward Teacher ……. about this message.
- The point on my spiritual journey when this idea has been most alive in me was…
Questions for Reflection on Beloved Community and Living into Wholeness
How would you describe the Beloved Community? When do you recognize it? What steps must individuals and communities take to co-create the Beloved Community? What is the role of your spirituality in building the Beloved Community?
Dr. King describes Agape as "a willingness to go to any length to restore community." When have you felt Agape in action in your life or your community?
How does agape call you to live in your community now, in 2018?
Coming from a love centered in agape, what might it look like to experiment with engaging someone with whom you disagree?