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Center for Action and Contemplation

Community: Weekly Summary and Practice of Praying Community into Being

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Summary: Sunday, May 6-Friday, May 11, 2018

God’s basic method of communicating God’s self is not the “saved” individual, the rightly informed believer, or even a person with a career in ministry, but the journey and bonding process that God initiates in community: in marriages, families, tribes, nations, events, scientists, and churches who are seeking to participate in God’s love, maybe without even consciously knowing it. (Sunday)

Paul’s brilliant metaphor for this living, organic, concrete embodiment is “the Body of Christ.” . . . At the heart of this body, providing the energy that enlivens the whole community is “the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). (Monday)

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw clearly in the last years of his life, we face a real choice between chaos and community—we need a moral revolution. If that was true fifty years ago, then we must be clear today: America needs a moral revival to bring about beloved community. —William J. Barber II (Tuesday)

Thankfully, we’re seeing many people, religious and secular, from all around the world, coming together to form alternative communities for sharing resources, living simply, and imagining a sustainable and nonviolent future. (Wednesday)

The spiritual logic of a community of faith is that they can live a smaller but living version of what they seek for the larger world. —Jack Jezreel (Thursday)

Rooted in spiritual practice, Canticle Farm manifests this commitment [to the Great Turning] by engaging in the “Work That Reconnects,” integral nonviolence, gift economy, restorative justice practices, urban permaculture, and other disciplines necessary for regenerating community in the 21st Century. —Canticle Farm Mission Statement (Friday)


Practice: Praying Community into Being

One of our teachers at CAC’s CONSPIRE conference this year, Barbara Holmes, writes at length about the communal nature of contemplation in her book Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church. Contemplative practices are not only experiences of peaceful retreat and solitude. Holmes reflects, “We need healing practices and transformative responses to issues that continue to divide our society.” [1] Contemplation in community helps bring about authentic reconciliation. Holmes writes:

Where is the community called beloved when we need it most?

Henri Nouwen describes the essence of community from a spiritual perspective. He says, “the basis of the Christian community is not the family or social or economic equality, or shared oppression or complaint, or mutual attraction . . . but the divine call.” [2] This is an important aspect of community that is overlooked. According to Nouwen, the Christian community is a waiting community. But it is also a group of people who pray the reality of their sense of belonging into being.

In recent years, many of us bemoan the failure of the beloved community to materialize in an objective way. It seems to be stuck in a time warp, tangled up in dream language and unrealistic expectations of reconciliation without repentance. False reconciliations expect victims of oppression to forget, absolve, and move on without acknowledgment of misdeeds or repentance, and for oppressors to apologize but keep the spoils of unmerited privilege. This is not the type of reconciliation that [Martin Luther King, Jr.] recommended. When King painted a picture of the ultimate goals of the community called beloved, he necessarily—for reasons of time and rhetorical impact—omitted the tedious steps and sacrifices that would pave the way for its emergence.

But the most hidden aspect of community formation was the necessity of intentional contemplative practices as a spiritual precursor to the participation of a co-creating God. Nouwen makes the connection clear. It is through rituals of silence, word, song, and gesture that we indicate our readiness for the indwelling of God. It is through the sacred space that emerges in the black church during abiding times, which may or may not be silent, that the contours of community become visible. [3]

Song has long been part of sacred communities of every faith tradition, a practice that opens our hearts to the divine and each other and stirs us to compassionate engagement. Join Yara Allen and Sauda Ashe—leaders from Moral Mondays and the Poor People’s Campaign—in singing-praying the vision of loving community into being:

Wake up, wake up in the community.
Tell me, tell me what do you see?
I see love in the community.
If you ask me that’s what I see.
I see dance in the community . . .
Using it to fight poverty.
I hear songs in the community . . .
Melodies to bring unity. [4]

[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, 2nd ed. (Fortress Press: 2017), x.

[2] Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (New York: Doubleday, 1986), 153.

[3] Holmes, Joy Unspeakable, 123-124..

[4] Yara Allen and Sauda Ashe, Kairos Center, Find additional songs and resources for the Poor People’s Campaign at

For Further Study:
John Dear, They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change (Orbis Books: 2018)

Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, Second edition (Fortress Press: 2017)

Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018)

Image credit: Welcome (detail), Canticle Farm, Oakland California. To learn more about Canticle Farm, visit
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: When we took down the fences between our yards, . . . we were also taking down the fences in our hearts. That’s when we really began to know and love our neighbors and make peace with one another.  —Anne Symens-Bucher, Canticle Farm
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