Belonging in Community

Dearly Beloved,

Here we are with July ending and August beginning – the summer is flying by! I hope you’ve had some time to reflect on our congregation’s “WHY.” Our leadership identified welcome, acceptance, love, rest & renewal as big parts of our WHY, and I connected these themes to the idea of BE- LONGING. Belonging connects to both our inner and outer journeys. In our July newsletter, I invited you to reflect on who in our wider community does NOT have a strong sense of belonging? Who needs to experience welcome, acceptance, love, rest and renewal? How do we cultivate the inner journey as a community and then share what we experience through that inner journey with the wid- er world? What other reflections have you had on belonging?

When I belong, I feel connected to the people or community of which I am a part. I feel safe to be myself and accepted for who I am. When we truly belong, we can make mistakes without fearing that our belonging will be at risk. We can disagree or challenge an idea or action while trusting that relationships and connection will be mended. When we belong we can acknowledge our limits and shortcomings, we can share our gifts and wisdom, we can ask for help and forgiveness and offer both to others. We can trust that we are not alone but journeying with others who bring their own precious gifts and wisdom.

My reflections on belonging were helpful just this last week when I realized I was feeling anxious about our upcoming vote on Open and Affirming – perhaps you can relate as we look towards the unknown. Thankfully, I had the chance to connect to the work of our Open and Affirming Discern- ment Team. See, they’re not doing this thing “by the book” so to speak. Nope. They are leading us through this process in a way that resonates with the hopes, fears and concerns they have heard from us! Because they are listening – to you and me. And no, there is no way to make everyone happy, but their goal has been to honor what they are hearing, to treat it as a gift and a privilege they have been given. And they are praying their way through this process – listening for God’s voice and leading through all of our voices, our questions, our experiences and hurts, our fears, hopes and joys.

So, if you’re feeling anxious about the ONA vote too, I hope you’ll join me in praying for your own discernment – ask God to lead and guide your learning and listening. I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for our Discernment Team who have been praying about this for a year. I hope you’ll join me in praying for our congregation – that we may continue to belong together: to one another and to God through this process. And that through it all, love may lead us, that we may love one another as Christ has loved us.

In gratitude and love for each of you and your prayers, Thandiwe