Feeling a sense of being loved and being worthy of love—whether this is being loved by God or by others that we are close to—is critical to our capacity to live a life of faithfulness, even facing tremendous challenges. And it is very difficult to feel loved by God if we have not experienced love from people who are close to us. 1 John 4:7-21 says that we cannot love God (whom we have not seen) if we do not love our brothers & sisters whom we have seen.
Isaac Penington wrote a Letter to Friends in Amersham in 1667 which begins “Our life is love & peace & tenderness, and bearing with one another…” Paulette Meier set this letter to one of her plainsong chants in Our Life Is Love.
Which comes first: the capacity to offer an open-hearted willingness to God or open-hearted trust in other—or an actual lived experience of love from others? In reality there is a deep interconnectedness between the love we experience and our ability to trust God and others with an open, vulnerable heart.
The term “beloved community” was first coined by Josiah Royce, the founder of the pacifist group, Fellowship of Reconciliation. The term was picked up by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and used to describe a just society where every person was treated with compassionate care.
Beloved Is Where We Begin contains two intertwined blessings from Jan Nicholson read at a Three Rivers worship in the fall of 2022.
In some faith communities pastoral care is considered the responsibility of one “pastor” (the word means “shepherd”) or of a committee. But in fact the task of care for one another is part of what being “members of one another” is all about. The idea of pastoral care is described in Jesus’ words to Peter on the beach at the very end of the gospels in John 21:15-17.
Members of a faith community are much more likely to be willing to be transparent about issues going on in their own lives if they feel loved and held by other members of the community—and able to trust others to treat them with compassion and not judgmentalism.
The Closing Minute of the 2011 Quaker Spring Gathering discusses the importance of love and trust within the meeting family, as a way of enabling members to open up their lives to each other.
When we lift up requests to others for prayer, either for ourselves or for others, we come to know each other better, reveal the places we need help, and also open ourselves to the loving gift of others’ prayer and concern for us. The practice of “holding others in the Light” in many Friends meetings has deepened our connections with each other. This is discussed more in the section on Spiritual Practices.