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Mid-Wifing Beloved Community
Rev. Deborah Holder
Minister of Beloved Community Formation
Mountain Desert District - UUA
Archived 3/6/2012
 
Be it the Occupy movement, immigrant integration, or how we are together in religious community, whether we're aware of it or not, a paradigm is operating.

A paradigm is a mindset or set of assumptions, often unexamined, about how things happen. It's the way we shape and understand information. For example, our congregation-based justice ministries operate within a paradigm - assumptions that inform our approach to social change as gathered religious communities. In an age as divided and prone to violence as our own and precisely because paradigms are so influential, it's critically important that all of us become aware of what mindset informs our justice-seeking congregations. 
 
Without the joy and support that come from acknowledging the mutuality of responsibility, being loved as well as loving, the will for fundamental change cannot be sustained. People are empowered to work for justice by their love for others and by the love they receive from others.
 
These words of Sharon Welch, Meadville-Lombard Provost and scholar-activist, reflect a restorative justice-making paradigm that's life-enriching, courageous, and appropriately grounded in a religious vision of Beloved Community. It's fundamentally different from a more familiar, violent retributive model of justice based on revenge and punishment; shaming the opponent, and pitting people against one another in ways that prevent the common good from ever emerging among us. It's a paradigm that increasing numbers of Unitarian Universalists and veteran activists believe has outlived it usefulness. Our Standing on the Side of Love initiative is just one example of how we're learning to build a new way.
 
Concerned with healing all wounds caused by living in a de-humanized world, this rapidly developing alternative model is based on interdependence - all things are connected to each other in a web of relationships. There is no "us" and "them." It's risky, courageous, and comes out of respect for human fallibility. Its power comes from the messy and uncertain work of restoring right relationship - nurturing a joyful and compassionate love of self, other, and the world despite the heartbreak of our brokenness. Like giving birth to a new human being or the creation of anything that didn't previously exist, struggle, frustration and pain are part of the transformational process. It's happening today as the Occupy movement publicly wrestles with clashing paradigms.
 
And it's happening among us, too, as we gain increased clarity about the role of religion in human transformation. I see it just about everywhere these days - a yearning among Unitarian Universalists for spiritual integrity in our social change ministries. Our understanding of the meaning and purpose of social change ministry is changing. I see us learning and practicing new skills and habits of communication that are shifting the paradigm toward a model of restorative justice. I see us becoming midwives of a realized vision of Beloved Community. What do you see happening in your congregation?

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