Our Quest for Faithful Presence

Dear St Luke’s,

What does it mean to belong? 

This question is picking at my brain.  I think it all started in a board of trustees meeting in last Fall, carried over into a staff meeting at the beginning of this year, and was fanned into flame in during our Community Forum conversations over the last few weeks. 

How does a person know if they belong? 

In Douglas Copland’s novel, Life After God, there’s a scene in which the protagonist is walking down the middle of a residential street.  It’s dusk. It’s a big holiday and most of the homes are teaming with friends and family, warm lights, good food, plenty of laughter, and joy… It’s as if every picture window is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.  Can you feel it?  Coupland’s character goes on to suggest that the feeling of being on the outside and looking is the how he feels all of the time… A feeling that everyone else is in on something that he can’t access.  He doesn’t belong.  He’s all alone.

When a person has an experience of belonging what are they feeling?  Or when a person feels like they don’t belong what are they feeling?

I heard an NPR story this week talking about how the American epidemic of loneliness is estimated to be costing corporate America over of 150 billion dollars a year.  The story reported that 3 out of 5 Americans are lonely, not just are alone from time-to-time, but feel lonely most of the time.  I don’t claim to understand all that loneliness is or means, but that number is staggering to me.  3 out of 5 means that 60% of Americans – the majority of us – feel like a lot like the guy walking down the street, on the outside looking in, assuming everyone feels something he can’t touch.

What does belonging look like in a culture in which most people identify as lonely?

Belonging is tricky and seems to be getting trickier.  These days it’s not at all uncommon for people hold more multi-passports, or to have been members of churches affiliated from very different denominations, and these days a person can “unfriend” another with the click of a button.  There are toxic forms of belonging that sometimes pit “us” vs “them.” The pandemic may have added another layer of complexity. It seems that in this quasi-post-COVID world many people are simultaneously tired of Zoom yet struggle to engage outside their homes.  In my students I’m observing how frequently they bound together around the feeling of “not belonging.”

A quote from one of the later Star Wars movies is coming to mind; in speaking of the evil Empire one of the Rebels said something like, “They win by making you think you’re alone.” 

How might we as St Luke’s deepen our resolve and hone our skills as community of radical belonging?

One of the core messages God seems to want every person to receive is that we are beloved children of God; vital members of God’s family.  The profound message the new testament is that all are welcome.  The Apostle Peter wrote in one of his short letters, “once you were not a people, but now you are,” Peter was saying once we didn’t feel belonging, but in and through Christ we became a new kind of community, a family of choice. 

How might we help each other & those we come in contact with feel a little more connected?

St Luke’s is a community of belonging.  I wonder how we might build on that collective strength?

In a not unrelated announcement.   We are going to host a couple of community forums explore belonging at St Luke’s, in preparation to welcome new members on Easter Sunday.  So if you have been participating in community amongst us and would like to become a member or officially transfer your membership to St Luke’s please contact our Deb in our office.

Also, on Sunday we will wrap up our Community Forum series in which we’ve been exploring Church Refugees: Listening with & Learning from the ‘Nones’ and ‘Dones’. Much of this talk of “community” and “belonging” has been arisen from these Community Forums conversations.

Always remember my friend, you are beloved, you are not alone, and yes, you belong.

Peace, dwight