More than a year ago Dan and Laurie hosted a “possibilities” meeting at their house regarding the creation of a new liberal church in Dayton. Bonnie and I were invited to attend the meeting because some in the UU group had heard that TLC, having struggled as an independent spiritual community, was considering affiliating with the UUA. Bonnie and I both approached the meeting with the primary intention of listening to see if we felt there was some connection or common ground the two groups could build on together.
About 15 of us sat in a circle and shared our stories. We spoke about what brought us there. We shared some of the wounds and battle scars we gained along the way. We shared our fears and the challenges that faced us both in our present condition and if we were to start down the path of uniting our vision. But the most important thing we did that night was share our dreams – our dreams to be part of something vibrant and alive and spiritual, our dreams to be part of something for the larger good, our dreams to be a more powerful force for the cause of justice in the world.
A month or so later, when we gathered again at Bill and Heather Wendell’s home to discuss in more detail whether or not we should pursue this union, you all asked me if I really wanted to do this and some of you may remember that I said there’s nothing I’d rather be doing! And it is true.
There is nothing I’d rather be doing, no dream I deem more deserving of my time, talent and energy and no other people I’d rather be doing it with. I believe we found each other for a reason – to bring the community we dream of into being – a community committed to helping each of us grow to full stature of spirit and soul, while giving us opportunities to share our gifts with world and make it a better place because of who we are, how we live, and how we love.
And in founding this community it is a new day because the dream that we’ve been dreaming is finally coming true! We are making history today, not just because we are crazy enough to found a church together but because in founding TLCUU we are creating a community of difference-makers, sounding our dissent of the status quo, and using our hearts, minds, and hands to live the dream of making the world a better place, not just for tomorrow, but for today! Here. Now.
Committing ourselves to live a vision of unity, grounded in the understanding that that we are one, is no easy thing in a world bent almost to broken by division, that thrives on competition and distinguishing between who is acceptable and who is not. But this dream of ours, to create a beloved community, where all our welcome, differences are honored and each one of us are challenged to grow and change and become more loving ourselves so that we can more easily reach out to others and offer our gifts to a broken a world isn’t just our dream, it is THE dream.
The dream to relieve suffering, put an end to violence, heal the world’s woundedness, and live as one, together, peacefully, as kin – this has been the dream of prophets, healers and teachers through out the ages.
This was JC’s dream. It compelled him to start a small community of his own and challenge those who became part of it to live accordingly. This was Siddhartha Gautama’s dream and it motivated him to leave the comfort of home and wealth of his family to pursue freedom – from suffering, from ego, from limitations. This was Mohammed’s dream and in pursuing it he found the path of surrendering…
The dream that has led us to this place, to founding TLCUU is the same dream that compelled mystics like Rumi to profess that “I, you, he, she, we…these are not true distinctions.” It was this same dream that empowered Mother Teresa to move to the streets of Calcutta, inspired Gandhi to begin his non-violent revolution for equal rights and impelled Martin Luther King Jr. to take up the cause of non-violence in his quest for justice.
This is the “great” dream that is seeded in all creation. Each one of us carry a piece of the great dream and it’s coming to fruition depends upon you and I pursuing our personal dreams and higher potential, sharing our visions and making the tough sacrifices, choices and changes necessary to move the dream from our hearts and minds to the real world of our relationships in the here and now.
If we want our dream of unity and love to take hold we not only have to live it here, we have to share it out there! According to some accounts, Martin Luther King Jr. moved from his planned text to his improvised “I have a dream” speech when Mahalia Jackson prompted him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Tell them about the dream… We’ve got to tell the world about our dream, about TLCUU because our dream is connected to King’s dream, the universal dream.
King’s dream included the creation of a beloved community. Forrest Church, the late UU minister of All Souls UU in NYC affirmed that the challenge before us now is help develop what Dr. King called “the Beloved Community” in our time and within our communities. The creation of such a community comes from the work of love being shared and justice being done in a realm where that which is greater than all, is present in each. According to the level of cooperation we achieve with one another and with that which is in each of us, but greater than all of us, we shall either thrive or perish. If God is inside us, our neighbor is inside us as well, not only inside us, but also among us, between us, intertwined with us, never apart.
Church went on to say, “With this new knowledge, our religious challenge is greater than ever. We must employ our reason and the insights of science…to increase our understanding and cultivate the garden of the spirit in ways undreamed of before.
We must not only nurture a deeper appreciation for the wonder and majesty of life, but renew our sense of responsibility for how the story we are telling, [the dream we are manifesting] will finally turn out.”
Fashioning TLCUU into a beloved community will not be easy. The fact is love costs and simply living with other people or sharing space with them does not by itself create community. People live together in armies and prisons and college dorms and hospitals, but they are not communities unless they live out of the same reservoir of values and the same center of love.
We have to want good for one another. Even liking one another is not enough. We have to share a common vision and we do. Grounded in the UU principles, the vision that gathers us is that we are One, that all of creation and all of reality, seen and unseen is interconnected, that there are many paths, but One journey.
There is a saying that came out of the Aboriginal Activist movement of the 1970’s in Queensland, Australia that states, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” We come here because we finally understand that our liberation is bound up together, that none us are free until all of us are free, that “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be,” like Dr. King said, “this is the interrelated structure of reality.”
But our culture thrives on the notion and illusion that you and I are separate from each other and that my quality of life has nothing to do with yours, my dream, my being and becoming unrelated to you and yours.
The truth is that, as a people, humanity simply has not cultivated the spiritual commitment to pay attention to life beyond our own backyards. We take care of us and nothing else because no greater vision of life impels us and because we lack the sense of human community that requires us to be for others.
So to endeavor to create a community, intentionally, that can support us on the journey of life and challenge us to grow to full stature of spirit and soul while demanding that we be about something more than ourselves, is quite counter-cultural and not a dream that sells easily or many are looking to invest in.
Every ad agency in the country sells us personal satisfaction, not group growth. We learn early to do our own thing. We discover young in this culture to look out for #1. This sense of individualism has shrunk our consciousness to the size of “me and mine,” MY family and MY-self, MY-truth, rather than expanded it to embrace inherent worth and dignity of each person. Because we have become so self-consumed we have rejected the idea that our individual gifts were not just given for oneself, but were given to you as much for your sake as for my own and the worlds.
But self-consumption leaves us withered and weak and littleness cannot save us; we need great souls willing to dream big dreams and make sacrifices for the greater good, for a dream that awakens our better selves, calls us to more compassionate living, and impels us to be for others.
We have to learn to be for one another so that the love of God, universal love, can be a shining certainty, here, now. This is the function and blessing of community. And it is a far cry from the rugged individualism, narcissism, and brutal independence that have defined the boundaries around our neighborhoods and become the hallmark of our culture.
It’s in community that we find out who we really are. It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that illuminates my nagging devotion to the self. Life with others, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about other’s shortcomings as it does about my own. Through our relationships, we learn how to soften our hard edges, how to reconcile and how to care for someone else besides myself. In human relationships we learn that theory is no substitute for love. It’s easy to talk about love, universal love, unconditional love, love of God. It’s quite another thing to really practice it.
This is how relationships sanctify us. They show us where holiness is for us. That’s how relationships develop us. They show us where growth is for us.
If I’m the passive-victim type, then assertiveness may have something to do with my coming to wholeness. If I’m the domineering character in every group, then a willingness to listen and to be led may be my call to life. Alone, I am what I am, but in community, I have the chance to become everything I can be.
And so, we covenant together, creating a stability that bonds us to each other and these relationships so that resting in the security of each other we can afford to stumble and search, knowing that we can risk everything for our dreams because will be caught if we fall and we will be led where we cannot see by those who have been there before us.
TLCUU is the seed of a dream and the world needs people like us who are willing to dream, who are willing to risk sharing themselves and investing in each other and the ideal of a beloved community or we will continue to destroy each other and suppress the innovative ideas and unique relationships necessary for a better world and a brighter future.
And so it is my great honor and joy to embark on this dream with you of becoming a truly beloved community of sisters and brothers united in love, slow to take offense and quick to offer forgiveness, because as King reminds us, “The [goal] is reconciliation; the [goal] is redemption; the [goal] is the creation of the beloved community,” not just here, but out there.
So tell them…tell them about the dream – yours and mine and TLCUU’s – because it’s a new day and it’s time for unity, and us and we, and you and me together! Look out world! Here we come!