Panel on Beloved Community

Hello everyone! Memorial Day weekend often marks the unofficial start of summer and I am incredibly excited about our summer ahead, here at Reservoir!  We will have a few guest preachers here this summer, starting with Taj Smith next week who will be a part of leading our PRIDE service – so be sure to make it if you can. I’m thankful for these guest voices that will be enriching our services over the summer weeks.

It also got me excited to take this opportunity to hear from voices within our Reservoir community. So today our sermon will invite the voices of Maleka Donaldson, Cliff Chuang and Kate Henderson. I’ll let them introduce themselves in a moment – but as a traditional sermon often does, please allow their voices to invite you into deeper learning, to invite and inspire you to consider how loving God and loving others matters in this world.


Today the conversation that these three will have with one another and with us will hang on the familiar phrase, “beloved community.” Beloved Community is Reservoir’s five year vision – specifically to continue to become the Beloved Community we are called to be, one that is: 

  1. Diverse and anti-racist.
  2. Welcoming, and a place of profound belonging. 
  3. Radically generous.
  4. Empowering wholeness, love, and justice in people and communities, promoting whole life flourishing.
  5. Innovating as a church in a post-Christian world, so that our ministry is less dependent on any one gathering but includes many life-giving new ways to experience and be church.

We preached a whole sermon series on ‘beloved community’ in 2020, and our community group content has centered this vision – but I know that it is a phrase that is hard to digest, hard to put legs on. This is part of the reason I’m excited about Maleka, Cliff and Kate’s voices because they are going to share how they are  living out this vision of Beloved Community in their own contexts and hear some stories in that vein… stories that stir and awaken our own stories. 

The ‘beloved community’ was a phrase popularized by Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other leaders in the civil rights struggle. It referred to a WAY OF BEING IN THE WORLD that was equitable, just, inclusive.  A community they believed God was shaping with our help.   

The beloved community is an interconnected way of being with one another, that I believe is crucial for us today.  Beyond its utopian sound, this phrase –  “beloved community,” is one that asks us to do the intentional work of staying connected to one another, to knowing one another,  listening to one another with all our differences present, so that transformation can occur in us, and in the world around us. Beloved Community is about inclusiveness and belonging, socially, and economically, and it helps us live freer, healthier, happier lives in all aspects of our being.

“Beloved community” is the spiritual call to all of us. One that enlivens us to live this life, reflecting and embodying God’s love, peace and justice – creating the kin-dom of God here on earth – here and now. 

When Jesus taught his students to pray, one of the phrases he encouraged was to pray to God:

“your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

When Jesus taught about God’s ways being done on earth, he usually called it the King-om of God. In Jesus’ King-om of God teaching, we get pictures of dynamic and radical faith, hope, and love expressed in private and public life – a thru-line in all we do, wherever we are… 

And Jesus backs this up as he’s talking to the religious leaders of the day – in the gospel of Luke where the Pharisees ask when the “kin-dom of God would come, Jesus replied,

“The coming of the kin-dom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kin-dom of God is in your midst.” “Is among you” – “is within you” (other translations) 

Luke 17:20 – 21

Late Congressman John Lewis echoed this sentiment by saying,

what if the beloved community were already a reality, the true reality, and we simply have to embody it until everyone else can see and experience it?”

It’s the spirit of this question that I want to invite our panel into conversation around …to put some legs on this really big phrase ‘Beloved Community’ – some tangible pictures of how this plays out in our real lives.

Please welcome – Cliff Chuang, Maleka Donaldson, Kate Henderson.

Panel prompt #1:

  • If the kin-dom of God – the Beloved Community is indeed in our midst – and is within you – how do the values of belonging, listening, inclusion, justice –  inform/inspire/empower YOU and the life you lead?

Panel prompt #2:

For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, Beloved Community was a deep prayer, one that safeguarded them from resignation, isolation and disconnection.

2) I can imagine that in the areas of education and public health everything is not running perfectly smooth, or as you would dream it to be – and maybe that’s part of why you went into these areas of work… but after working in these fields for years I also can imagine it gets hard to stay in it…

What keeps you going? What keeps resignation at bay (both internally and in reality)? How do you not give up?

Question for online congregation:  How about you all? I think we are all a part of creating the Beloved Community whether in our households, relationships, neighborhoods or work… What keeps you going?  Where are you experiencing beloved community in your life?