History

part of the story of where Beloved Community comes from

When one cannot find the ‘beloved community,’ she needs to take steps to create it and if there is not evidence of the existence of such a community then the rule to live by is To Act So As To Hasten Its Coming.

Josiah Royce

The term “Beloved Community” was originally coined by Josiah Royce to describe a way of being in the world grounded not in disappointment but in possibility. For Royce, Beloved Community is a spiritual practice of loyalty — the radical idea that love is a more powerful force for change than fear.

Royce was a American philosopher whose life’s work was all about what was required to live a meaningful life in an era of tumultuous change not unlike today.  In an age as fragmented and polarized as our own, Royce’s understanding of Beloved Community as loyalty to realizing authentic community for the purpose of the flourishing of all creation is liberating. Royce understood Beloved Community to be the result of loyalty to the divine indwelling that equally graces all people.

This is not a sentimentalized notion. Royce’s description of Beloved Community is one of total relatedness requiring courage, empathic presence, and perseverance.

A contemporary of Royce, Universalist social ethicist and theologian Clarence Skinner interpreted Beloved Community as nothing less than the purpose of religious community: “it is not an organization of individuals; it is a new adventure of consecrated men and women seeking a new world… who forget themselves in their passion to find the common life where the good of all is the quest of each.”

As the Universalist ancestors knew it to be, the purpose of the church is to heal one another into well-being;  “to reverse the consequences of lovelessness and injustice in the souls and behaviors of its members” so that we can work together more effectively for a just social and economic order.

 

Beloved Community is the creative energy and prophetic imagination that sparked the Southern Freedom Struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker and disciples. Its roots in the churches, Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community is a “radical redefinition of our relationships…the end is the creation of the Beloved Community…a type of love that can transform opponents into friends.” It begins not by discriminating between worthy and unworthy or between friend and enemy. It is never limited to racial justice or building a social movement. First and foremost a pastor, Dr. King nurtured a disciplined, life-enriching community of change agents practicing together a fierce kind of love…”a willingness to go to any length to restore community.”