A year ago when I was doing research on the benefits of belonging to a healthy community I came across a powerful poem written by earth activist and author Starhawk that eloquently speaks to the beauty and power of a spiritually conscious community.
We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.
Deeply held within the heart and soul of each of us is the desire to belong. According to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier of the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention the sense of belonging inherent in all individuals is a basic human need- as basic as food and shelter. His research has shown that those who receive social support are healthier, happier, and are more active and productive than those who live in isolation without meaningful and loving connection and support.
The type of community depicted in Starhawk’s poem does not happen by chance. It requires the united effort of all members. Each individual is invited to become fully aware of the energy he/she is contributing to not only his/her experience but simultaneously contributing to the collective. Members willingly commit to conscious participation and shared responsibility. In his book Healthy Congregations, Peter Steinke reminds us that congregations are living systems that parallel the systems of the human body. The physical body is holistic in nature in that what happens in one cell, one organ, etc. affects the health and functioning of all the other cells, organs and the overall health of the entire body. Similarly, a church is a collective whole and the overall health of the community is affected by the behaviors, actions, and emotions of its membership, ministry teams, lay leaders, and the minister/spiritual leader. Steinke brilliantly gives a prescription for healthy congregations. According to Steinke healthy communities:
• Have a sense purpose where members are actively united around a shared vision, mission, and core values.
• Stimulate and provide diverse opportunities for spiritual growth
• Provide opportunities for members to identify their strengths and share their spiritual gifts
• Have clear identified roles and boundaries
• Appraise and manage conflict effectively and have an understanding that conflict is a sign of new growth wanting to emerge.
As I embark on my new role as spiritual leader of UBTS, I devote myself completely to modeling spiritually conscious commitment. I vow to educate our community on Unity’s rich Truth teachings and on the dynamics of how to embody spiritually conscious engagement. I not only want to share Starhawk’s poem to inspire you, but I want to realize it with you here at UBTS.
Love and light,