On May 11, over 300 people across our diocese gathered at Procter for a day of fellowship, learning, and to celebrate confirmation, all centered on Becoming Beloved Community. The day began in prayer with Music That Makes Community’s Paul Vasile leading through participatory music. Through song, our spirits lifted together and set the tone for our day together. The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers built on this energy by sharing the vision of Becoming Beloved Community. Her truth-telling served as an important wake-up for many as she shared her personal story of being a black woman priest in the Episcopal Church as well as other things both “done and left undone” by our church. Canon Spellers urged us to consider and then to act in her question, “Do you see how broken we are? Jesus sees it too…The legacy of the disciples is ours now.”

Following Canon Spellers’ powerful keynote address, there were two workshop sessions with a total of eight offerings. Sessions all focused on different aspects of Becoming Beloved Community, from creation care to racial justice to models of practice, including one on music and one on the Way of Love. Throughout the day, children were engaged through play, creating sand mandalas, romping around the farm, and making music. Twenty-five youth had gathered the night before for a retreat, some of them celebrating their confirmation; this day offered our young leaders opportunities to further reflect and dialogue around how they were being called into Becoming Beloved Community. Alongside these more structured activities, were interactive stations offered throughout the day including a reading station, the labyrinth, and a participatory art installation—again, all exploring the meaning of Becoming Beloved Community. Concluding our time together, we gathered to celebrate fifteen confirmands and four candidates for reception and to soulfully worship with music by New Hope African Fellowship Choir from Dayton and parts of the service in Spanish. Several people came up to me—some whispering, some exclaiming—“This certainly isn’t the same Episcopal Church I’ve known!”

For me, this day offered a collective experience into what Becoming Beloved Community looks and feels like. We are being called to follow Jesus, to reclaim the Gospel, to confront injustice in a world that is increasing divisive and hateful. This way of love is not always comfortable; in fact, it rarely is. For some, this very day came with moments of misunderstanding, pain, and silencing as we engaged in dialogue around racism and White Supremacy and practiced listening and truth-telling.  And while it deeply hurts me to know that this pain comes when we answer this call, the fact that we answered it, we showed up, and that we will stay together through our faith in God, gives me hope in our Church. After all, we cannot heal wounds we do not see.

I am thankful to be uncovering a new church in the very one I’ve known all my life. One that is committed to racial justice, healing, and radical love. We are Becoming Beloved Community. We are The Episcopal Church.

Submitted by Amy Howton, Becoming Beloved Community coordinator for the Diocese of Southern Ohio