Every 500  years or so, civilization goes through  a massive shift.  I know it feels like every week these days, but hang in with me.  For such a time as this we have been called!

Like tectonic plates moving beneath the earth’s surface, civilization  encounters seismic shifts in ourunderstanding not only of our world, but also of our very selves. For many, the result is a state of exile  thatis experienced on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level:

–     Physical  born  of a deep sense of displacement from a known way of being;

–     Emotional as increasing demands upon time and person result in exhaustion and utter depletion;

–     Mental as creativity is lost under the burden of attempting to maintain unsustainable structures; and

–     Spiritual as core identity is challenged by the seduction of an easy fix, a quick way out of our presentstate of displacement.

Exile involves both pain and loss. It calls us to a place of letting  go of one way of being that we might liveforward into a future that is discontinuous  with our past. Given this, we can understand the resistance toacknowledging, let alone entering into, exile.  EXILE!

Yet exile  can also be a gift. It can provide a liminal space in which to forge new ways of being that becomes  a means of transformation and renewal. The role and call of community in such times is to seek the flourishing of people and planet.  In the words of a Babylonian exile from the sixth century  BCE:  Seek  theShalom (i.e., the flourishing) of the city to which you have been sent in exile, for in its Shalom will be yourShalom.  Note: We are not the first to go through disruptive times.  Indeed, they are the prerequisite for deep, adaptive change!

Seeking the Shalom… the flourishing of community is sadly not a responsibility that many leaders understandinherent to their work.  Too often, we confuse the inputs and throughputs of our work with the outputs.  Weget caught up in the heresy of the urgent, failing to live the questions that lead to new forms of engagement.  Yet an increasing number of visionary leaders are exploring  ways to produce  a triple bottom line of people,planet and profit that is indeed resulting in the flourishing of both community and individual.

Shalom in this context can best be described as wholeness of body, mind, emotions, and spirit for not only theindividual, but for the community.  The Shalom, of which our ancient voice speaks, is not merely an etherealstate of peace, but the economic  realization  of community-wide prosperity.  Taken in this context, flourishingis a social, political and economic  reality that seeks the welfare  of the whole,  not just a few. Our inter-dependence, be it on a local or global level, reflects the reality that individual wholeness is not possible apartfrom communal wholeness. The painful reality is that most leaders are not equipped to lead in the context ofexile.  Such is the pace and demand upon leaders today that few are given opportunity to acknowledge thereality of exile, short of crisis.

Join me next week as we explore the implications of leading in exile.

people forming round by shoes

Beloved Community

Beloved Community: You’re Invited

What does beloved community mean and what steps might we take to create beloved community?

In every new arising there are three forces involved:
affirming, denying, and reconciling.

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Law of Three

After 18 years of making “the journey” our home, my husband and I are back in Connecticut where we began. There are still people who can tell me the story of the day I was born. Two of my siblings and several of my cousins live right across the state line in New York. It is the place where I belong. But that does not mean that my sense of belonging is experienced by all.

In my mostly prosocial town, there is an inordinate number of traffic stops for those whose skin color is different than mine. As progressive as we like to think of ourselves, our privilege betrays us in the statistical reports. One Easter, a family friend was stopped leaving our house; he was black. Our mayor was mortified to hear that a guest to our community was stopped while “driving black.” Of course, these incidents don’t even tap into the risk of being killed, or the collective trauma experienced by people of color.

So where does that leave us? What will be our response to the on-going loss of life? Will we claim our moral responsibility to act? In the aftermath of the Chauvin verdict, what is our call? I’m reminded of words from John Lewis, conscience of congress even now, “if not us, then who? If not now, then when?” 

How we define “community” will determine our future. Will we choose to be beloved community… or not? How we engage with one another—stranger, friend and even enemy—will reflect the depth of our commitment to living as beloved community. It will require a third force, in addition to the affirming and denying forces currently at work. Cynthia Bourgeault in her book The Law of Three describes this force as the reconciling force: 

The most important thing to keep in mind here is that this third force is an independent force, coequal with the other two, not a product of the first two as in the classic philosophy of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis.” Just as it takes three independent strands of hair to make a braid, so it takes three individual lines of force to make a new arising. This third force serves to bring the other two forces (which would otherwise remain disconnected or deadlocked) into relationship, from which forward momentum can emerge. 

This coming Saturday, April 24, from 9:00 am-noon (Central), we have a unique opportunity to dwell in community with Anita Howard, activist, researcher and professor at Case Western Reserve University, who will be sharing her research and journey as it relates to Beloved Community. Together, we will explore what it means to be beloved community today, and steps that we might take to create it. Click here to register.

Community doesn’t just happen. It takes intention that involves both an inward and outward movement. Ultimately, it is the most challenging of disciplines from which we receive the greatest of gifts: a sense of belonging and purpose—and, if we keep working at it, an experience of beloved!

Hope to see you Saturday!