By Caroline Sharp
As you may have guessed by now, Social and Ecological Justice Huron is knee deep in the book The Church Cracked Open by Stephanie Spellers.
Stephanie writes at the start of chapter two of her book:
People are aching the world over for beloved community. You don’t have to be religious to long for it. There is something elemental and compelling about communities of people who help one another to grow into all that they were created to be. Where each person is as committed to the other’s flourishing and to the flourishing of the whole. Where the members are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and even lives for the sake of the other and for the dream they share. You don’t have to be religious to seek beloved community. I believe we humans are created with a homing device that begins to hum and light up when we see individuals and communities driven not by ego but by self-giving love.
This concept is pretty much as old as the existence of human beings but something happened along the way that caused us to live extraordinarily different lives than we are meant to live. God’s creation process is holistic. According to Oxford Languages the definition for holistic is: “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” Only God is omniscient whereas we struggle with seeing the whole picture - that’s how science was invented - we are searching for that unknown knowledge God couldn’t fit into our heads. Shortly before the birth of science was a humankind who were nomads. They hunted and foraged for their food where and when it was available. Because the process of feeding everyone really didn’t take much time, there was more time for leisure. Various rituals and ceremonies were the primitive human’s method of entertainment. They were in tune with their environments but also with each other. When someone was in need, everyone sacrificed for the wellbeing of the whole. Instead of letting one person starve, everyone ate a little less. It is natural for us to desire beloved community but it appears that something stops us from actually living it out.
Spellers suggests that our egos are what get in the way of living out beloved community. Ego is something that was born along with greed when humans evolved (sort of) from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Slowly through the years, but especially more recently, we have lost our way in regard to our holistic understanding of the world. People don’t want to think about where their roast beef or bacon came from. Many Canadians, especially younger generations, lack the ability to identify the many species of native trees and plants. We are disconnected!
Being disconnected from the rest of creation has caused us to suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. Our sedentary lives in concrete jungles are making us ill. If we think of the term “disconnected” in regard to telephones, I believe a lot of us would get a little edgy or suffer from withdrawal if our phones were disconnected. The good news is that we can use our technology to help us get back to our roots!
There are a number of apps that have been created to help us identify the world around us. This past summer I have started using some of these apps (PictureThis (for plants), Picture Bird, Picture Insect, and eTick) to identify the world around me. I have found that it is fairly accurate but the odd plant isn’t identified correctly which can be caused by blurry pictures or bad angles. Knowing which native plants grow in your vicinity can be helpful for knowing what you can or can’t eat. Foraging is something that is gaining popularity among naturalists and the ecologically minded.
Plants that we call weeds are often edible. Dandelions are one of those plants that we are all familiar with. Did you know the entire plant from root to flower is edible? It’s true! Plantains are another common “weed” that is edible. Really, a weed is an unwanted plant, however, if we learn about the properties of nature around us, we begin to connect with nature.
The many people who keep animals unknowingly do so as another means to connect with nature. Dogs, for instance, are handy to have closeby. For eons, domesticated or not, dogs have lingered near humans who create garbage and food waste. They benefit from us and we delight in the beauty and complexity of God’s creation and all of our parts within it.
When we start to view creation as a product of God and recognize its holistic manner, we are uplifted. We feel happier, more whole and perhaps we may start to recognize this feeling as something called love. Self-giving love, what Spellers believes is needed for beloved community to occur, comes out of connecting with everything else God has made and allowing that feeling of love to consume us so that we can share our light with others and flourish together.
We all shall flourish together - all ages, all genders, all colours, all species! Everything that God has made is good and shall live holistically as one; as a beloved community!
Caroline Sharp is a tri-chair of SEJH.