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Alternative Community
Alternative Community

Alternative Community: Weekly Summary

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Alternative Community

Saturday, June 6, 2020
Summary: Sunday, May 31—Friday, June 5, 2020

People are gathering digitally and in person today through neighborhood associations, study groups, community gardens, social services, and volunteer groups. (Sunday)

Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. (Monday)

In this awakening renewed Christians are called to exercise a prophetic role. It is this new lifestyle—this new way of relating with persons, goods, institutions, and God—that is itself an arresting alternative to the ways of the world. —Virgilio Elizondo (Tuesday)

Somewhere deep within was a “place” beyond all faults and virtues that had to be confirmed before I could run the risk of opening my life up to another. To find ultimate security in an ultimate vulnerability, this is to be loved.  —Howard Thurman (Wednesday)

I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it.  —Gregory Boyle (Thursday)

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. —Dorothy Day (Friday)


Practice: Contemplative Solidarity

I take great joy in how the Living School community has developed and grown over the past six years. I can’t say that we got it right immediately, but each year, we’ve found new ways to encourage vulnerability, empathy, and connection. This has taken place not only among the students, but even more importantly, between the students and their communities back home. Students know that any wisdom they’ve gained is not for themselves alone, but for the world. We ask them to make a commitment to “contemplative solidarity,” to being in mutual relationship with someone very different than themselves. I invite you to read the following practice from CAC Living School alumnus, Scott Dewey, an active member of an alternative Christian community in Denver, Colorado.

We practice ways of seeing [with our heart and soul]. . . .

How we see [with our heart and soul] matters, so we practice. We tend the soil of our souls, cultivating the direction toward which our tendrils stretch and our growth inclines. . .

We practice.

“I fell in love with beauty there.” A friend tells me of a dark time living in a meth house while addicted and removed from her children. “I took long walks every day looking at nature. That’s really what I remember most.”

“I cannot breathe sometimes,” confides a neighbor whose second son was gunned down on the street 10 years after her first. “And then one breath comes. And another. To be honest, at first, I didn’t want to breathe. Still don’t some nights. Before all this, I never paid any mind to breathing. Like it or not, every one of those breaths is a gift of life. I see it now. I wake up and tell myself, just keep on breathing.”

We exercise our [heart and soul] eyes by practicing gratitude—for instance in the classical personal reflection or [Ignatian] Examen or in a thank-you note. We step out and walk, as my friend did daily from her meth house, and awaken to the natural world among our city sidewalks. A bitter experience crushes us and then in time we breathe, breathe, breathe into a life that eventually surprises us with how it gleams. We grow to see and sustain a way of seeing, by refusing to break faith with goodness glimpsed.

[And with our vision liberated] . . . we can risk. We can risk rest, in the face of pressing need. We can risk an audacious plan, with our credibility at stake amid fears it might be our only shot. We can risk great sorrow, trusting we’ll be held. We can risk our delight, trusting its own worthiness and the worthiness of the world to share in it. We can risk a painful path of healing from whatever has us in its grip. We can risk a hard conversation or a joke that might work if the timing’s right. We can risk a song.

We practice. My, do we need practice! We nurture such visions tenderly, playfully, and fiercely in the world. With growing trust in what we’ve seen—and what we haven’t yet beheld—we water seeds.

Scott Dewey, Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking from the Center for Urban Peacemakers at Mile High Ministries (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 65–66.

For Further Study:
Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Free Press: 2010)

Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes (Orbis Books: 1997, ©1963)

Virgilio Elizondo, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise (Orbis Books: 2000)

Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, (Orbis: 2018)

Richard Rohr, Creating Christian Community (CAC: 1994), MP3 download

Howard Thurman, With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1979)

Image credit: Dorothy Day, by Julie Lonneman. Used with permission of the artist. Julie Lonneman was a member of the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded by Fr. Richard Rohr in the early 1970s.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. —Dorothy Day
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