Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: The Beloved Community

Beloved Community
A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 
– Luke 10:27 (NIV)

As we approach the celebration of MLK Day, your thoughts may turn to Dr. King’s dream of a Beloved Community. His was a narrative of a collective community. A community committed to embracing the philosophy of nonviolence. A community where its inhabitants share the wealth of the earth and where the coexistence of racism and poverty are no longer. A community where by engaging the principles of nonviolence, conflict or international disputes are resolved peacefully. It has been said that to Dr. King, the enactment of Beloved Community was as realistic as the racist world in which he lived.

My personal vision of Beloved Community developed as the result of years of longing for an authentic multiracial and multiethnic worshipping community. I envisioned a sacred space where Christians embraced and lived reconciled with one another the way the Kingdom of God is portrayed in Scripture. I saw a sacred space where in spite of what took place outside, inside, loving God also meant loving your Black or White neighbor as yourself. When I think about the many communal experiences I’ve personally encountered, I realize it was the authenticity of loving relationships developed in those spaces that brought me joy. On the other hand, the effects of racism in that same space have affected not only the way I see and experience community, but at times it caused me to fear the possibility of believing genuine relationships between Blacks and Whites could ever exist.

Today, intentional racial reconciliation happens as I do the work of loving my White neighbor as I love me. As I reflect back to my first experience of allowing a White person to enter into my relational space, I am almost embarrassed at the level of resistance extended. My dear friend of now thirty some years, approached me in Bible college after hearing I was having car trouble. She offered her help in getting me to class.

As a new Christian who had recently spent five years of college studying African-American studies, finding myself in a multiracial/multicultural church was the last place I thought I would worship or find authentic White folk for that matter. After only a short time, because of some of my initial encounters at the church when Whites turned away after the pastor asked everyone to reach out and touch or hug their neighbor, I immediately distrusted my friend’s motive. The more I resisted, the more she insisted she could pick me up for class. We laugh about it today because in reality neither of us was intentionally trying to befriend or hurt the other. She was just being her naturally giving self; I on the other hand, was naturally protecting myself from further discrimination, which had become a normal way of life, now in and outside the church. Her intentionally reaching across the invisible color line to offer help, was all it took for me to risk letting my guard down to finally accept her invitation.

It has been theorized that since slavery in America, social categorization of race construct, and superiority and inferiority complex theories have been used by Whites to subjugate Blacks and other minorities. As a result, this social construct has through the years caused Blacks and others since slavery to continue to be looked upon as inferior to the majority race in this country. For this reason, years after the physical and emotional traumatization of Blacks, many African-Americans still carry the scars from slavery, while trying to deconstruct the myth of being inferior.

This trauma has affected how Blacks often respond when approached by Whites. Even when Whites may have good intentions, Blacks subconsciously may be wondering, “What is your real motive?” or asking themselves, “Is the person just trying to relieve themselves of guilt by doing something nice for a Black person?”

Even against the resistance posed, this White woman who is now one of my dearest friends, pressed to make a difference in someone’s life. More importantly she did it without allowing color to be a barrier. Although our relationship may have been divinely orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, we did have to obey the promptings to allow this organic friendship to develop between us. What may have started as an unplanned relationship, at some point we had to become intentional for it to flourish authentically.

In light of my personal journey with my friend, I learned that the opportunity for genuine fellowship between Blacks and Whites will only reach its maximum potential when the participants are intentional about loving the other as they love themselves. By allowing this sister in Christ to be the authentic and genuine person that she was and remains to be after years of friendship, I am a better person and I believe she would agree, so is she. We have had countless discussions about race, how we grew up, our parents, and how all these factors have made a difference in how we view one another.

Even though we are both Christians, we found having a lot in common still did not keep us from running into challenges as we grew to learn about one another. I am sure we would both admit that our friendship has weathered the racial storms of the decades since our first encounter. Through political debates, church traditions, ministry, life and other major differences that we faced as we were becoming the women we are today, we are both better because of the other. More importantly, we have modeled authentic Beloved Community for our friends and families.

As we celebrate this upcoming MLK Day, there is only one way to capitulate the seemingly shrinking imagery caste by Dr. King. If nourished, the sixty-year-old vision will remain alive to never die. As we strive to authentically love one another, one life, one church at a time, may Beloved Community prevail. 

Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words” 

Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively. 

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc. she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012 Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016 Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

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