Earlier today, during the Meditation segment of the Sunday morning worship service at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, I presented the following:
Fellow members of the priesthood of all believers, good morning.
Writing my autobiography led me to reflect on what I really want. I concluded that what I really want is deep community. So I titled the book, My Search for Deep Community.
My first experience with deep community was the civil rights movement, which was committed to reforming national policy from a holistic attitude that affirmed the whole person. As Gandhi’s movement was rooted in a spiritual community dedicated to the self-development of its members, the civil rights movement was rooted in the Black Church whose members supported one another in a joyous, profound celebration of life. Us white folks weren’t merely fighting for the rights of African-Americans. We were fighting to help one another save our souls by attacking a major root cause of injustice: the government in Washington.
I would like to experience deep community again. So I decided to increase my commitment to Fellowship Church. Given the history of this church, I figure there’s no better foundation for my search.
• When we go down deep to the ground of our being, we automatically engage with all humanity and all life. We drop our masks. We get down to who we really are: a human being interwoven with all reality.
• When we get down to that ground, we don’t stand alone. Our roots are interwoven with other roots.
• So when others suffer we suffer and we want to help relieve that suffering.
• Relieving suffering requires addressing root causes, getting deep.
• Addressing root causes requires correcting national policies that are the source of so much suffering.
• If we see a child drowning, we don’t tell her to pray. We change her environment.
• Changing those national policies requires building massive popular power by expanding the beloved community so that its reach is larger, which will enable its roots to grow more deeply.
• Building that power requires a long-term vision of how we can fundamentally restructure our society into a compassionate, truly democratic community.
• That restructuring requires a strategy for building momentum by achieving winnable objectives. That was key to the Gandhi-King strategy: a focus on winnable objectives. We can build on and reform what we have rather than trying to tear it down and start over.
• Even when our Congresspersons usually vote the way we want them to vote, there’s still more they can do to use their office as an organizing tool to help build local support for evolutionary revolution. We can talk with them about how we can do that together.
• We have majority support on many important issues, but so far we’ve been unable to persuade Congress to respect the will of the people.
• Building national power will require an improvement in how activists organize, how they relate to one another and the general public.
• That improvement requires ongoing personal growth rooted deeply in the willingness to examine oneself honestly, admit mistakes, and resolve to avoid them in the future.
• That growth requires peer support. Due to the fragmented, frantic, dehumanized nature of modern society, providing mutual support often requires intentional, conscious effort. We need to set aside special time to share a meal, really listen to each other report on our efforts, enjoy each other’s company, have fun together, and brainstorm about how to move forward.
• Without jeopardizing their tax status, non-profit organizations can support their members in making their own decisions about what action to take.
• Growing a national deep community will be enhanced if we develop user-friendly tools, like Alcoholics Anonymous did, that concerned individuals, without going through any elaborate training, can easily use to meet the unmet need for deep connection.
• With those tools, the number of deep communities could spread rapidly.
• Knowing that others were using the same tools would deepen the sense of community.
So that is what I mean by deep community: growing deep roots personally, socially, and politically.
I don’t need deep community to be happy. I can be happy meditating, hanging out with Giants fans, and getting a massage once a month. But I do need deep community to be fulfilled, to become ever more fully who I really am. I feel it is my duty to foster deep community.
But I’ve decided to stop trying to make it happen. Trying to force it doesn’t work.
So I don’t plan to initiate any more formal projects. Rather, I’ll informally study, engage in dialogs, listen carefully, really listen, and write, while remaining open to any invitations from fellow peers to collaborate as equals in efforts to build deep community.
What do I mean by a “peer relationship”? I mean one in which no party considers herself or himself to be superior or inferior, tries to dominate or is willing to submit.
That’s part of what I understand to be a priesthood of all believers. Because I feel that mutual respect here at Fellowship Church, I thank you for the opportunity to commune with you, as we pursue truth, justice, and beauty.