What Does It Mean to Be a People of . . . BELONGING
In the month of October we’ll explore together the theme of belonging. Theme-based ministry connects worship, religious education and small group experiences so that we are having a shared conversation across the generations.
Reflections on Belonging:
“Where you belong is where you choose to constantly choose to show up.”
“The ancient question, “Who am I?” inevitably leads to a deeper one: “Whose am I?” – because there is no identity outside of relationship. You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you? Who loves you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is altered by your choices? With whose life is your own all bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?”
“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.”
–Starhawk, from Dreaming the Dark
“Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it.”
–Elizabeth Lowell, Remember Summer
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place.”
The spiritual practice of finding home and being home for others
The practice of embracing a wider self
Whose Are You? . . . All in One Place
We all know that belonging is not just about place, but people as well. Quaker teacher, Douglas Steer gets at this beautifully:
“The ancient question, ‘Who am I?’ inevitably leads to a deeper one: ‘Whose am I?’ – because there is no identity outside of relationship. You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you? Who loves you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is altered by your choices? With whose life is your own bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?’
It’s such a powerful and important truth: we are who we belong to. But it’s also a hard truth to remember. The world around us doesn’t help. Its focus is on becoming not belonging. It wants us to wake up every morning and ask, “Am I succeeding?” not “Who needs me?” “ Who loves me?” or “With whose life is my own bound up?”
So this month why not engage in a bit of course correction? Why not see what happens when who we belong to is front and center at the start of every day?
This exercise is designed to help with this. Here are your instructions:
- Clear off a space on a table, dresser, desk or shelf in your house.
- Over a few days or a week populate that space with pictures of people who come to mind when you ask yourself “Whose am I?” Find or print out the pictures. Add as many as feels right. Push yourself to think beyond the obvious answers: your family, your church community, etc. Treat the question as a meditation practice. Asking it each day will lead you to unexpected pictures: a mentor from your past, an unknown boy on the other side of the world suffering because climate change caused by us, those who have been exclude from our faith because of white-centered structures. Or maybe it will take you beyond people, to a pet from your childhood or that park you walk in every Saturday of the Fall.
- Once the space is filled with your chosen pictures, send another week or two using it as an altar of sorts. Pause briefly before it every morning. Or maybe more than briefly.
- Pay attention to how bringing your network of belonging changes your days. Journal about it. Discuss it with your partner or friend.
- Come to your group with a report of how placing belonging at the center of your attention altered your days.
Note: You don’t have to do this exercise by yourself. Consider doing it with your partner or with your children as well.
Taking It Home: Ideas for All Ages
Belonging On Our Blue Marble
When talking about belonging, one soon meanders around to the idea that we all share the earth as our home, as the one place to which we all belong. And yet that fact rarely sinks into our daily consciousness. It is a concept stuck in science books rather than a truth that sits at the center of our spirituality. Earthrise is a short documentary that helps us change that. It’s an award-winning short video that tells the story of the Apollo 8 astronauts and the first image captured of Earth from space in 1968. It’s a story about “escaping” earth to realize how deeply we belong to it, and to each other.
Don’t just watch it; turn it into a spiritual exercise by watching it after the sun has gone down and talking a walk afterward. Think of it as a “night walk meditation” and use it to deepen your experience of watching the film. Let the video and night walk take you where it will. Come to your group ready to share the one moment from the film or from your walk that affected you most deeply. Here’s the link to the video: https://emergencemagazine.org/story/earthrise-film/
Share Your Belonging
This exercise is simple and hard (at least for us UUs) at the same time: Invite somebody to church!
At the heart of this exercise is a deep religious truth: True belonging is something you give, not just get. If we don’t share the belonging, we’ve found, it becomes a cage not a home. And why would we want to keep it to ourselves anyway? Yes, it’s awkward to invite people to church. Nobody wants to seem like they are pushing their religion on someone. But at the same time, the gift of finding belonging comes with a deep sense of gratitude. And gratitude naturally leads to generosity. The best way to say thanks for a gift is to share it. In the end, it’s all one big reminder that being a people of belonging is inexorably intertwined with being a people of gratitude and a people of generosity.
So lean into all three this month by uttering and completing these two simple sentences: “I think you’d enjoy my church because _____________. Want to join me this week?”
Stories Used In Worship and Classes This Month
Little Sweet Potato by Amy Beth Bloom
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
#1018 Come and Go With Me
Commentary and origin of the song: https://farfringe.com/hymn-by-hymn/stj1018-come-and-go-with-me/
“This might be, as the hymnal suggests, a spiritual from the time of American slavery. This might also be, as some online sources suggest, a traditional blues tune. I hate when the search for information in inconclusive. Because I don’t know whether to talk about the use of 19th century spirituals in our predominantly white congregations, or if we talk about the rich blend of traditions that occurred in the American south, as sounds from Africa, Europe, and the Americas all found themselves woven together into new music.
This is, however, an easy song to learn and lead, and I can see why it’s popular. Although if my searches are evidence of anything, it’s that a song like this can’t be tied down to one particular arrangement or melody – so I caution against the rigidity that other hymns may demand…I leave you with the first known recording of the song, from Blind Willie Johnson with backing vocals by Willie B. Harris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=ZnTN1ev84yU”
Theme Connection: Where does this hymn belong? As Rev. Debus notes, it is a song with a rich
blend of traditions. So, may we too be a people with a rich blend of traditions
and belong to a wide world creating justice and kindness as we travel together.
Soul Matters Spotify Music Playlists:
Discover musical inspiration on each of our themes through monthly playlists: https://www.soulmatterssharingcircle.com/spotify-lists.html
Join us to deepen our faith together:
- Explore resources related to the monthly theme (links above)
- Attend Sunday worship
- Sign up for small group ministry (Soul Matters Sharing Circles and Chalice Circles)
- Request a copy of Soulful Home (thematic resources for families)
- Join our Parent Group (to discuss the themes in relation to parenting)
Resources on this page adapted from Soul Matters October 2019.