Open Doors Spiritual Matters: How a community becomes beloved

Members of the Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation at their private audience with the Dali Lama. Photo: Submitted.


Beloved community is not always beloved. There are people who can push your buttons, step on your toes, ruffle your feathers and generally rain on your parade.

The person who coined the phrase, beloved community, at first probably said, “darn that community!”, (or worse).

Community, as a spiritual practice, is second level spirituality.  It is second level because it encourages you to be gracious. It asks you to consider best intentions. It expects you to reflect on your motives. Courage is required to do any of these things.

I remember a time someone came into the congregation thinking it was the perfect place to learn how to be loving. “There were so many kind and thoughtful people”, they said.

Within a month someone had asked them to be on a committee, someone had interrupted them in the middle of their thoughts, spilled coffee on them, and a member who looked a lot like their estranged sister, had asked them out on a date. They questioned how loving the community really was!

Community reveals how we interact with others, do we use control, power, shyness. It reveals how we judge others. It reveals how much we want to be liked and respected. There is no “spiritual bypass” around learning how to work within a community. Our foibles, our judgments, and our habits are challenged in community.

As a spiritual practice community is not easy. It might be why so many aspire to be Spiritual but not Religious. But, when we learn how to navigate through those shadows, a funny thing happens. Community begins to offer a beauty we may not have expected.

We can become vulnerable and this opens our heart, it frees us. We can learn how to be engaged with others without losing a part of ourselves. We can share our humanity so it reveals how similar we are. We notice there are ways of handling conflict better than shouting or shutting down. We become aware there is more than one “high road”. This is when community becomes beloved.

“Beloved” because as social creatures we need each other.

“Beloved” because we cannot solve the problems of this world alone.

“Beloved” because, at some time or another, we will need to solve the problems of the world, and our lives, together.

Spiritual questions or practice: Try approaching someone you do not know and strike up a conversation.  See if you notice how you act, cautious…..overconfident….controlling…..fearful? Ask yourself, how did I act, was I inviting/open, what did I say?

Rev. Wayne Walder is from the Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 79 Hiawatha Rd.

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