by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister         –          Jan. 15, 2019

I began the year in Arizona with my NGLI cohort. For those who don’t know, I was admitted to the “Next Generation Leadership Initiative.” NGLI is a program of the UCC pension boards. It is described as,

“A program that has emerged to equip, energize, and empower younger UCC local church pastors to build vibrant congregations that change lives and further God’s mission in the world. It seeks to honor and challenge younger clergy who have accepted the calling to parish ministry, who demonstrate significant potential, and who make a long-term commitment to service in congregational settings of the United Church of Christ.” –UCC pension boards

For the next three years I will be participating in trainings with a cohort of 13 other clergy colleagues from around the country. For the first week of 2019 we were in lectures learning about Bowen’s family systems theory. We engaged with case studies using Bowen’s theory to help enrich our understanding of faith communities and human relationships in general. It was fascinating and rewarding work.

As I understand family systems theory, it’s basically the idea that we learn our behaviors and develop relational patterns from our families. We learn habits and behaviors, good bad and everything in between, from our families. We grow together and shape each other as families. We learn how to love and care from our families. Our families, in a way, can be understood as a primary school for love. I think the concept of family systems theory is reflected in the South African concept of, “Ubuntu,” that we’ve spoken about at church before. The concept, “Ubuntu” which means, “I am because we are,” suggests that all humanity is actually one family. Each person impacts the whole and vice versa. Ubuntu points to the truth of our interdependence, the fact that we impact and reflect each other as people, and are growing together in Love.

Faith Communities, like families, also function like schools for Love. It may seem like a small thing, but how many places exist with the central purpose of reminding each of us that we are loved relentlessly and unconditionally? The closing worship at NGLI centered on the theme, “You are Beloved.” This past Sunday we celebrated Baptism and were given the chance to renew our Baptism. I always appreciate that the beginning of the year corresponds with scriptures about Baptism. It’s a way for us to start out the year with a new beginning, and go forward, remembering that we are loved. At Jesus’s baptism, God says, “This is my beloved.” –Luke 9:35. When we are baptized or when we renew our baptism, we are acknowledging that, we too, are “God’s Beloved,” and we grow in that Love.

I want to encourage us to really believe that as we move into the New Year. You are beloved! As we go into the New Year let’s practice remembering that every person is God’s beloved. Start by looking in the mirror and saying, “I am loved.” When you meet a stranger let your first thought be, “God’s beloved.” When we see our friends let’s remember the word, “Beloved.” Even people we might have a hard time liking are, “God’s beloved,” and we are asked to remember that too. Seeing ourselves and everyone we meet as, “Beloved,” is one small yet powerful thing we can practice to impact this troubled world of ours. So as a faith community, as a school for love, let’s make, “Beloved-vision,” our new year’s resolution and watch how we grow, thrive, and transform the world around us into beloved community.

You are Beloved,