I lead Bible studies weekly at The Cottages, Episcopal Retirement Services’ long-term care facility on Erie Avenue next to the Deupree Community. I also lead Bible studies at three ERS affordable living communities: weekly at St. Paul Village in Madisonville, twice a month at St. Pius Place in South Cumminsville, and beginning in July, weekly at Knowlton’s Corner in Northside. I have had as many as eight participants at Knowlton’s Corner, more than 10% of the residents. This leads me to comment on our work toward Beloved Community.
Most of the residents at the affordable living communities are African American, but not so at The Cottages. For about a month, an African American woman who was working as a private duty companion for one of The Cottages residents attended our Bible study with her resident. Because I teach by asking questions, she often responded and followed up with her own questions. Another resident commented twice how much she enjoyed our back and forth. It had turned into team teaching. The resident no longer has private duty companions, so I have lost my team teacher.
This is an example of beloved community. It came into existence by the grace of God, lasted for a season, and was a blessing for all of us. I also see bonding between African American caregivers and the white residents at The Cottages. They live and work together daily in mutual respect and love. This, too, is beloved community.
My other Bible studies are primarily with African Americans who love to learn more about the Bible and talk about God’s love for them revealed in it. We also pray together. I see a real hunger for personal prayer in a group setting. It has become a major part of my Bible studies at the affordable living communities. Thus, I am blessed with being part of several beloved communities every week.
If we take the time to think about it, most of us are part of beloved communities many times a week. They may not last long, but they are real, and they are here for us. And they may also be as close to the kingdom of God as we will get in this life.
The Rev. Fred McGavran is a deacon who serves as a chaplain for Episcopal Retirement Services.