This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
I wouldn’t call myself a logophile or a word nerd, but I do pay a good deal of attention to spoken and written words.
You see, my mother was a stickler for good diction and being well-read. She demanded of me and my siblings the practice of owning a personal dictionary and the habit of looking up every unfamiliar word spoken or read so it would become part of our personal inventory.
Often knowing just one definition of the word is not enough.
For example, the word belonging has two meanings. First, belonging can be used to mean being owned by or possessed by someone. But a different definition is the idea of being related to and a part of something. It is membership or a close or intimate relationship. An example would be the experience of being at home in the broadest sense of the phrase.
I think the feeling of belonging is best created when we join with other people in producing something that makes a better place. But then the shadow side of belonging is to feel isolated and always (always) on the margins; being an outsider. Bereft of belonging, we are forever wandering, looking for that place where we belong.
To belong is to know—even when we are alone somewhere in the middle of the night—that we are a member of our community of friends.
The phrase beloved community has always touched me because of the mental images that come to my mind. My mind imagines a beautiful, fruitful, well-watered garden; a community in which everyone is cared for, and there is the absence of poverty, hunger, and hate; a community where the love of God empowers and nurtures all human interactions.
I was ordained to Christian ministry the year before my daughter was born, and the reasons that motivated me to choose pastoral work as a vocation have never waned in their appeal to me. Whether people agree with me, support me, or think I am great isn’t what matters; I love people.
I know that I am being an effective pastor when the people I serve feel a sense of belonging and identify themselves as a part of a beloved community.
The last couple of years have been challenging for all of us, and especially for people like me who, though necessarily extroverts, find delight in connecting with others. Many clergy leaders I encounter confess the same difficulties. The global pandemic we are in has altered the nature of belonging and the sense of a beloved community, particularly within the church.
I have a favor to ask those of you feeling isolated, disconnected, and unseen by our beloved community: Would you reach out and let me know? Here’s why: As I pray for our congregation, God sometimes places people on my mind, and I respond by lifting them up in prayer. Even so, I know that I can’t always envision the needs of everyone at our church no matter how hard I try. But I want to know what they are just the same.
I am, of course, not the only one who stands ready to pray for and offer belonging as part of our beloved community. When you reach out to a deacon, elder, Stephen Minister, or Friends in Christ leader, we all stand ready to provide Christ-centered pastoral care for each of you.
I look forward to your call (847-864-1472) or your email (email@example.com), even as I continue reaching out among you to the best of my God-given ability.
The biblical imperative fueling my love for each person emerges from God’s response to the derelict shepherds of Israel who failed to care for and foster a beloved community.
Jehovah says, I will seek the lost, and bring back the strays, and I will bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. (Ezekiel 34:16)
Blessed to be part of our beloved community,
Pastor Raymond Hylton