Martin Luther King first made a reference to the Beloved Community in a 1956 speech celebrating the Supreme Court decision that desegregated the buses in Montgomery, Alabama after a 12-month boycott by the local black community: “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community.”
The beloved community was Dr. King’s abiding vision. He gave the next 12 years of his life trying to bring it about. He succeeded – to a degree. From my faith point of view, King’s vision was Jesus’ vision – who gave his life to build bridges between slave and free, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Greek; and who was insistent that the beloved community include those who were otherwise denied, denigrated or marginalized – prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, demon-possessed and demon driven.
In my 12 years as Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, I have experienced moments of reconciliation; I have often witnessed redemption – and more times than I can count I have literally had a taste of the Beloved Community. My gratitude for those moments is deep – and will continue to feed my soul. As I prepare to leave this extraordinary sliver of God’s vineyard, I want people of the diocese to see, know – and claim, the amazing gifts that God has given you to join God in God’s work.
As Jesus and King knew – and as you and I know, we are not done. We may be at the end of our relationship with each other, but we are invited, challenged – no, we are expected to continue the work of reconciliation and redemption – and engage in the ministry of helping to create the Beloved Community. I will be doing that in new ways in New England. You will be doing that with your gifted and faith-filled Bishop Carlye Hughes. The world needs our witness.
I am excited for what is ahead.
Thank you – from the tip of my miter to the soles of my shoes.