Day 29: Belonging as a Gateway to Faith; Building Beloved Communities

BY JAMAL ADAMS | March 30, 2022
Today’s Readings

In our podcast, Just Conversation with Jamal and Nate, which is positioned at the nexus of faith & all matters pertaining to race, justice, and Catholic education, my co-host Nate Sessoms and I often state that the path to a more just and egalitarian society is paved by each of us growing our own capacity and skills to build inclusive communities. We’ve encouraged our listeners to practice active listening, learn to lean into their discomfort, and stay engaged in the conversation. 

Belonging as a Gateway to Faith; Building Beloved Communities
Our podcast also acknowledges that a considerable part of the work is personal, calling on us to reflect on our values, perspectives, and biases. I think today’s readings ask us to focus on faith and situate belonging as the pillar of a thriving community. In the Gospel, Jesus states, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also.” Here, Jesus bears witness that he is connected to the Father and that the lessons he offers are based on his faith in this cooperative relationship. It strikes me that our ability to thrive in our communities is through our intentional focus on the reciprocal relationship between faith and community. Although we each have our very personal relationship with God, we best serve his will by interacting and living with each other and building his beloved community.

Researcher and author Dr. Josh Packard of the Springtide Institute focuses his work on encouraging the disassociated back into the church. One of his fundamental findings expresses that many young people yearning for community have stated that “belonging comes before belief.” In my various roles in education as teacher, coach, director of equity and inclusion, and now as a principal, my success has always been predicated on building a team and helping others reach their full potential. Relationships have been a key in creating a sense of belonging within these communities. Dr. Packard’s work encourages us to see human interaction as a continuum, focusing on helping new members move from being noticed; to being named; to being known. Being intentional about how we come to know one another is at the heart of building a bigger tent where everyone is seen, heard, and loved. 

For Reflection: 

  • What strategies have you used to move relationships from the initial stage of being noticed to being named? How about techniques that move us to a deeper relationship from being named to being known? What parables of Jesus can we highlight that bring this process to light?
  • What barriers have you experienced regarding belonging as you have entered into new communities? Were you able to overcome them? Did that require someone’s help?
  • When examining the culture of your community, what are your welcoming rituals? Do they provide new members the opportunity to see themselves in the community and express themselves authentically?
7 replies
  1. Carol Adeney
    Carol Adeney says:

    These reflections have been so appreciated! Thank you all.
    Especially like the links, too.
    Sincere thanks in Munich.

  2. Eileen Quinn Knight Knight
    Eileen Quinn Knight Knight says:

    The welcoming rituals of our prayer community are thoughtful and kind. Including all in the formulation of their thought during the Gospel, encouraging the inclusion in the prayer songs and welcoming with gestures of encouragement. The prayer community is an ordinary, everyday kind of prayer group that wants to make sure people are radically welcomed and listened to. There are many different thoughts but at the same time there is a building of others thoughts as we pray. The exchange of graces helps each and every person connect with the Holy Spirit and with each other. it gives us the graces of the day to share with other groups we meet or are a part of. We offer the compassion that Jesus shares with us all day. We show our love and concern for all.

  3. Rosemary Bonadies
    Rosemary Bonadies says:

    “Belong comes before belief.” A most powerful statement for today’s world and peoples. Thank you!

  4. sonja
    sonja says:

    A sense of belonging is begun, when a newcomer is welcomed into the community. A newcomer is named when invited to share a meal and is known when invited to participate in the group activities and given a portion of responsibility. This is how I was raised as a Quaker. And this is how I have operated when initiating new groups. Unfortunately, I have not experienced this in the Catholic church, or in other denominations, apart from discerning deacons, and We are Church I may be welcomed, named and known by the priest or minister, but not by the people in the pews. Around the world I have been treated as an outsider, ignored, and not allowed to contribute, even when the minister has given permission. The status quo has continued to exclude others.

  5. charles m warthen
    charles m warthen says:

    “…”belonging comes before belief” So true and so powerful. Young and all of us want to belong. However, how many are ‘disenchanted” with the belief that is presented, e.g. a fall and redemption liturgy – sourced in a fundamentalist understanding oif Adam and Eve and the “need” for a ‘redeemer”/Jesus. Also the exaltation of the Eucharist, presented as the ‘Body and Blood of Christ/Jesus? And this apart from the “belief” that women are not equal in ministry to men, that male celebacy (absent in Scripture), that LGBTQ folks cannot be ‘accepted’ and certainly not married, that women who chose abortion cannot accept the Eucharist without ‘confessing”. Need I add more?

  6. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Thanks Jamal Adams. Indeed it is reciprocal, beautiful and simple. Ideally speaking, a sense of belonging in a community adds life to one’s life span and to the life span of the community.

  7. Mary
    Mary says:

    What would our world look like if even just Christians lived with the realization and awareness of belonging – belonging to God, belonging to God’s world, belonging to humanity?

    Thank you very much for these wonderful daily reflections!!!


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