Lately I’ve been reflecting on the idea of the Beloved Community; what it means, who is included, how we can create it in our lives. In an ideal world, all people would live in this community where there is no hate or violence, poverty or bigotry. We would live with our hearts full of love so strong there wouldn’t be room for anything else. Obviously, this is not the world we live in. This idea of the Beloved Community, championed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seemed like an impossible goal even in the 1960’s, and remains so today. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push ourselves every single day to live a life full of compassion and empathy for those around us. In Will’s sermon this past Sunday, he called upon us as Christians to choose to love radically all people, even the ones who perpetuate hate and violence. Martin Luther King Jr. described this radical love as Agape, and said that it “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both . . . Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”
In working with young people, my main goal is to instill this sense of love and community in them so that, hopefully, they will then extend it to others. In youth group we speak with words of kindness and positivity and we’ve formed real friendships that extend beyond the Chapel. When we talked about where we see acceptance and love in our world, one youth talked about the addition of multifaith prayer rooms being added to St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Another mentioned his friends on the football team from many different backgrounds. All of the youth had stories of love and acceptance regardless of skin color. However, they all had stories of witnessing hate and racism too. At the end of our conversation, we reflected on how we can create the world of acceptance we want to live in. We decided on two things: to open our hearts to all others in love, and to try harder to create a conversation with those who are different than us to find common ground.
As a start to accomplishing these goals, this summer we, along with other youth from the Diocese of MS and West TN, are participating in a pilgrimage in search of this Beloved Community. We will travel in Memphis, the Delta and Jackson, and into Alabama to see Selma and Montgomery. Our goal is to seek the truth about our history, create bonds with people in those communities, and honestly discuss ways to reconcile and move forward. Giving young people the opportunity to see firsthand what past hatred has done to humans will create a new generation intent on replacing that hurt with a radical love.
Striving towards a life of love is not easy, it takes courage, determination, and asking for reconciliation when you fail. This is the life God calls us to live, though. The idea of the Beloved Community is only unattainable to those unwilling to work for it.