The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
When I was on retreat at the end of January at Rivendell on Bowen Island I immersed myself in some reading. Curled up in a cozy chair in front of the fireplace with a view to the left of our glorious mountains I pulled out “Faith Forward: Volume 3” a collection of essays from thought-provoking theologians.
There was one by Ivy Beckwith that I wanted to share with you all. She wrote about the power and necessity of transformative communities. In writing about these communities she shared what they are not . . . stuck. Peter Block, author of Community: The Structure of Belonging shared that stuck communities, “value systems over relationships. . . . and value predictability.” Ivy wrote about how this stuckness can pervade our churches and how anxiety about the future can cause faith communities to focus inward, refusing to take risks, which in turn leads to losing hope. She writes that communities of possibility and transformation live into an alternative future where all are welcome everywhere, and where hope in God’s abundant provision trumps anxiety and fear.
She shared the six characteristics of these communities:
Communities of Hospitality – they receive and entertain strangers or guests without thought of reward and with kindness and generosity. They don’t welcome because of what people bring – they welcome simply because welcoming all is what the reign of God and a life of faith are all about.
Communities of Accountability – each member of the community is responsible for making the desired future happen. They take ownership of themselves and their actions and presents as a willingness to care for the well-being of the whole (giving up the “what’s in if for me” mentality).
Communities of Generosity – see each member as a gift with a special role in creating the alternative future they envision, rather than a liability or a problem to be solved.
Communities of Dissent – transformative communities tamp down the feelings of being threatened and are curious about why the dissent matters to either side. The call to love our enemies is transformed as our enemies are no longer the “theys,” but are part of a greater, wider, more diverse “us.”
Communities that Fear Not – work hard to stare down anxiety and live into the hope of an uncertain and unpredictable future.
Communities that Question – create the space for something new to emerge. Peter Block suggests using the following questions:
- What commitment do you bring to this thing we are creating together?
- What is the story you keep telling about the problems of this community?
- What is your contribution to the thing you complain about?
- What gifts do you hold that can be brought to bear on this new thing we are creating?
Ivy closed her essay with “transformative communities are hopeful, generous, welcoming, accountable places where a different future – God’s future – for our world is seen as something that can actually happen when we work to model and live into the reign of God within our churches. It is not without risk but getting unstuck, giving up personal entitlement, accepting responsibility for the present situation, and aligning with other perspectives are the work in front of every faith community that wants to transform itself and our world. This takes courage, and this takes hope.”
And our children and youth are watching and learning from us . . .