PEARL - In Search of Life’s Treasures

October, 2000

Our theme this month is COMMUNITY. This is such a vital and important topic for all of us. We would really love to hear of your experiences, insights, reflections and words of wisdom on the topic. Please write and share them with us. We would like to do another issue on this topic in the not-too-distant future and include YOUR submission! Send to THANKS!!! We look forward to hearing from you!

I exist for my family, my family exists for our society, our society exists for our nation, our nation exists for the world, all the world exists for God, and God exists for you and me, for all mankind. In this great circle of give and take there is harmony, there is unity, and there is an eternal process of increasing prosperity. Furthermore, since in this circuit all existence will fulfill its purpose of creation, there is abundant and profound joy. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, in which feelings of happiness overflow. Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73

Happy is the unity of the Sangha. Happy is the discipline of the united ones. Buddhism. Dhammapada 1944

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 133

Hold fast, all together, to God's rope, and be not divided among yourselves. Remember with gratitude God's favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became brethren. You were on the brink of the fiery Pit, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His signs clear to you, that you may be guided. Let there arise out of you one community, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: those will be prosperous. Be not be like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving clear signs: for them is a dreadful penalty. Islam. Qur'an 3.103-5

It is because one antelope will blow the dust from the other's eye that two antelopes walk together. African Traditional Religions. Akan Proverb (Ghana)

Meet together, speak together, let your minds be of one accord, as the Gods of old, being of one mind, accepted their share of the sacrifice. May your counsel be common, your assembly common, common the mind, and the thoughts of these united. A common purpose do I lay before you, and worship with your common oblation. Let your aims be common, and your hearts of one accord, and all of you be of one mind, so you may live well together. Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.191.2-4

Abruptly he [King Hsiang] asked me, "Through what can the Empire be settled?" "Through unity," I said. "Who can unite it?" "One who is not fond of killing can unite it," I said. Confucianism. Mencius I.A.6

My children, war, fear, and disunity have brought you from your villages to this sacred council fire. Facing a common danger, and fearing for the lives of your families, you have yet drifted apart, each tribe thinking and acting only for itself. Remember how I took you from one small band and nursed you into many nations. You must reunite now and act as one. No tribe alone can withstand our savage enemies, who care nothing about the eternal law, who sweep upon us like the storms of winter, spreading death and destruction everywhere. My children, listen well. Remember that you are brothers, that the downfall of one means the downfall of all. You must have one fire, one pipe, one war club. Native American Religions. Hiawatha (Iroquois)

Separate not yourself from the community. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 2.4

Let all mankind be thy sect. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 28, M.1, p. 6

Consider the family of humankind one. Jainism. Jinasena, Adipurana

All ye under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters. Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Christianity. Bible, Galatians 3.28

O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention among you. Then will the effulgence of the world's great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 111

The pebbles are the strength of the wall. African Traditional Religions. Buji Proverb (Nigeria)

To accomplish the gigantic historical task [of unification], you must discover the extraordinary power of love, love that does not become the circumstantial victim of society. Supreme love transcends every national, racial, and cultural barrier. People have always talked about love, but human love alone will never accomplish the task of universal unification. Therefore, we rally around one love--the love and heart of God.... The East and West are meeting here today, not merely because we want to see each other for personal reasons, but because the heart of God is linking us into one. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 9-11-77

A house is a home when the family loves and cares for each other. Otherwise it is just bodies sharing the same residence.

A community is a loving and embracing community if people have learned to put their differences aside and learned to honor and appreciate each other otherwise this community is but an assemblage of families, disconnected in heart who just happen to live in the same neighborhood (or who post on the same message board!) Doris Crompton

Being part of a community became very important to me after becoming a parent. Almost immediately after having my first child, I realized that no matter how hard I tried to be the best mother I could, I would never be able to fulfill all of his needs.

More than ever before I began to really appreciate my own mother when she would come to visit and invest so much into her first grandchild and later into all of them. I began to make new friends who were also mothers and to learn from them (and perhaps they even learned something from me?).

What became more and more apparent was that while there were many different activities our kids were involved in; school, sports, scouts, church, etc. what mattered most was that there were adults out there who had our children’s and others best interests at heart and who really cared about them. Of course, we are always going to be most focused on our own biological children yet we cannot remain isolated in our love and giving. There are always going to be gaps in every family; some more severe than others but just the same there will be needs that can’t be or aren’t met in the immediate family and a community network (whatever it’s form) creates the opportunity for others to be involved in a positive way with each other. Mary

The Community I Want To Be Part Of
Dave Perry

When I was stopped on the street in Long Beach, Ca. in 1975 by a very pleasant young lady, she asked for an American's view of the world as she was a foreign exchange student. She didn't say anything about God or religion when she invited me for a cup of coffee in the house she shared with some friends. But when we got there I saw a sign that said "Unification Church". I thought I would have a cup of coffee and get out of there as soon as possible! At that time in my life I wasn't interested in a church.

Some 25 years later I've come to the conclusion that I'm still not interested in a "church" but something else. Over the years, I have come to deeply appreciate the community of people with whom the church has brought me into contact.

There were times when I was passing through the 'dark night of the soul', as St. John of the Cross describes it. The only thing that helped me make it through were the friends to whom I could turn. Friends who would listen, encourage, share their opinion and perspective with heart, not with judgment.

That is the type of community I want to be part of. A community of spiritually-minded people who are seeking to advance in their relationship with God. People who are willing to accept that other people are sincerely seeking God even if they don't follow the same path. If we share the common goal of progressing on the spiritual path to restore our relationship with God, to enflame the divine spark that lies within each of our hearts, a community rich in love and joy can be formed.

Come to think of it, that sounds like the idea behind 'home church' and 'tribal messiah'. Our home should be a place where we experience God, not simply in some building once a week but each and every day. I should become a messiah to those around me, not through telling them how to live but by offering them support and encouragement on their path toward God.

Deep down inside we're all looking for community. We are created to thrive on give and take relationships with others. We all need to be part of a community. The challenge is to find a community that supports our spiritual growth. And that's not always easy to find.

Mommies Meeting
Larry R. Moffitt—Buenos Aires, November 1998

There was a women's meeting after church a couple of Sundays back. My wife, Taeko, decided to attend, which left me with approximately nothing to do. Sure I could have joined some of the other people who were following the gangs of rampaging children around the other parts of the church, yelling at them to behave. But the way I look at it, the children were already behaving. Okay it was chaotic, running and screaming and destroying behavior - but technically it was behavior. So they were in fact, behaving.

The Buenos Aires church has three floors with lots of nooks and crannies and a broad flat roof where you can hang your laundry. I could have retired to a quiet room to read scripture, but there was no such place, as the hordes of children, like rising water, seeped in everywhere. That, and I wasn't in scripture reading mode anyway. I had just survived church. I gave the Spanish for the first time. It was about God. And now peaceful reflection was what I wanted most. A cup of coffee would have just about hit the spot.

The church ladies circled their chairs in the big room where the service had been held earlier. Amazingly, this was the only scream-free zone in the whole place, even though it was crawling with mommies. By some arrangement the children tortured each other and played soccer with balled up paper sacks everywhere except here in this room. Which seemed odd since little kids always keep the where's mommy issue alive at least on a back burner, and run to report to her every little infraction of "fairness" on the part of their sibs. But hey, it's a moment of free calm and I wasn't going to question it.

In the back of the room sits a comfortable green fake velvet couch with a most seductive voice that, as you walk past it, whispers, "come rest in my arms, oh mighty hero." So I sat down, not out of laziness or for any such frivolity, but for science. I was suddenly interested in what goes on at a women's meeting. I would study them as an unobtrusive fly on the wall and learn the arcane secrets of the coven.

I settled into the couch for some serious methodical inquiry. I was at the other end of the room and not even on the same planet as far as the mommies were concerned. The first thing I discovered was that the idea for the women's meeting originated with the pastor, Ricardo de Sena (a card-carrying man). Women coming into the room wondered what the purpose was, if any. Ricardo presided over the first ten minutes of the session, wherein he said there ought to be a women's organization in the church to do stuff and pray for things - and then he bolted. And there they sat, a group of women with no clear agenda or leader. I smiled in sympathy.

They tried with all their combined power to make Taeko, the leader, being she was the spiritually senior woman present and is generally respected. I could have told them they were wasting their time. Taeko does many things better than any other person I know, but she doesn't do leadership. It's easier to leash-break a cat than to make her lead a group. She would much rather scrub pots in the kitchen or take care of old ladies or have a root canal. It's one of the many qualities I admire about her.

So fifteen minutes later they still had no leader or agenda. (This couch feels great. I really, really could use a cup of coffee. Yeah, and some chips.) They put the leadership question on hold and jumped right into organizing themselves and making plans. But how could this be? There was no leader? I take that back; there was leadership but the mantle of command seemed to float on the air, landing on this person and that. One would give some direction, then another would pick up the thread and give further direction or change topics. By some telepathic agreement, they created and assigned tasks and responsibilities cheerfully and civilly without Robert's Rules of Order. Without testosterone. The body shared one mind. If you kicked one, the rest would probably rub their shins. The scene reminded me of a Star Trek episode I saw once.

I have to admit I became a little bit drowsy in the tender embrace of that marvelous couch. But that's okay because a scientist needs his sleep in order to better pursue truth. I faded in and out, and at one point noticed that a clear leader had emerged after all - the Brazilian woman. The selection process had been completely transparent to me. The Pod People had chosen their queen.

The Brazilian woman, as with several of the others, had a baby latched onto her breast most of the time. And that brings up another matter of scientific inquiry - breast feeding in public. All men are fascinated by it. Never mind that protocol in a public breast-feeding community like our church calls for men to discreetly avert their eyes when a woman pops the hood, our minds are absolutely engaged in the process. We want to watch it and talk about it and touch it, but an enormous spiritual barrier prevents this so completely it might as well be sealed off by razor-sharp concertina wire. The warmth of the mother's breast is the first experience of intimacy for most men and it remains mystical ever after. You never forget your first love.

So anyway, spiritual duties are assigned. A prayer list begins to appear on the blackboard at the front. An Argentine woman, without ever being handed the baton as far as I could tell, started running this part of it. Could it be that the Brazilian woman wasn't the leader after all? It doesn't seem to matter to the Pod People.

Suddenly the Brazilian woman deputizes the heads of two new committees that had been created in the meeting without my being aware. Then another person who hardly said diddly during the whole time, asked someone to pray to conclude the meeting.

Before the prayer, the Brazilian woman walked to the back and handed me her baby. No words were spoken, nor permission asked. She just gently lowered the little cutie pie into my arms, smiled and walked back to the group. I guess she needed her hands free to pray. I can understand that. Since I have five children she must have assumed I have enormous sleeves-rolled-up experience with tiny babies. As if I could change a diaper on horseback. She would be shocked.

The pink clothes and pierced-ear earrings told my discerning mind that this was a girl infant I had been handed. Her eyes were half-closed and she was comatose, knowing some bliss she will spend the rest of her life searching to re-attain. The little lady was in a divine stupor. You would be too if you had just chugged a hooter fulla swag.

I sat on the couch and held the sleeping baby, useful at last, while the mommies prayed, shepherds to the world invoking their blanket of peace over everything.

Book reviews:

The Shelter of Each Other, Rebuilding Our Families by Mary Pipher, Ph.D. $12.95

In The Shelter of Each Other, Mary Pipher does for the American family what she did for adolescent girls and their parents in her best-selling book Reviving Ophelia: she opens our eyes wide to the desperate realities we are facing and shows us a way out. Drawing on the fascinating stories of families rich and poor, angry and despairing, religious and skeptical, and probing deep into her own family memories and experiences, Pipher clears a path to the strength and energy at the core of family life. "A canny mix of optimism and practicality gives Pipher’s fans a way to resist the worst of the culture around them and substitute the best of themselves." Newsweek This book is helpful for anyone who is trying to make more sense out of the struggles we experience in the context of our families and communities. This author brings us closer to the core of our reality. Just as we need high ideals to strive for and work toward, we also need frankness and honesty. Without micro-analyzing our pasts, we still must understand where we are coming from and where we hope to go! We are living in a culture that offers the potential for the best and the worst of possibilities. This book is encouraging reinforcement toward what we all hope to achieve ... family love and unity, a supportive community network. This book offers reflection, insight and most important, hope!

A different drum: Community Making Peace (1989 Simon and Schuster) by M. Scott Peck.

In his book, Mr. Peck explains how to create sustainable communities. A community, by definition, is a body of people living in the same place under the same laws. As you may know, there are various types of communities: religious, business, cultural. What Mr. Peck focuses on is the achievement of thriving communities where both the goals of the community itself and the goals of the individuals are met. A community that only focuses on its goals, disregarding the growth and the well being of its members will soon become a pseudo-community. On the other hand, a community that disregards its goals and only focuses on the members will not thrive and will soon lose its purpose. Therefore what Mr. Peck stresses is the importance of achieving a balance between the community's tasks and the growth of its members. This balance is essential for everyone to grow and thrive together. This is what a healthy community is about. In order to maintain such a balance, members have to demonstrate the ability to acknowledge the fact that things are not working out. Mr. Peck calls this valuable skill dealing with its shadows. If they are not dealt with in a timely manner, they become latent and can hinder the growth of the community. It takes courage and initiative to deal with these shadows but for the community to be or stay sustainable, it has to be done.

The author also stresses the importance for every community to have a mission statement and a vision statement. As needs arise and circumstances change, these two statements need to be updated and revised. Members have to be able to communicate well with each other and discuss needs and issues periodically. Mr. Scott is the co-founder of the Foundation for Community Encouragement. He and other Foundation staff have conducted over 275 community building workshops. He also talks about "global community" and sees it as a way to make this world a better place by teaching its citizens to live together well. Skills have to be learned and developed for healthy and thriving communities to be created, it won't happen on its own. The mission statement from the FCE is as follows: The Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE) empowers people, in a fragmented world, to discover new ways of being together. Living, learning, and teaching the principles of community, we serve as a catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations to:
* communicate with authenticity,
* deal with difficult issues,
* bridge differences with integrity,
* relate with love and respect.

The community skills Mr. Peck teaches in this book are a very valuable tool even for churches. Mastering these skills may prove to be an important step in promoting growth and well being. Once this is achieved the church will grow naturally as people will want to be a part of a thriving community and also be inspired by the fact that it will offer them the desired environment for personal growth. If this is well done, it is a win-win situation.

Community mean different things to different people. To some it is a safe heaven where survival is assured through mutual cooperation. To others, it is a place of emotional support, with deep sharing and bonding with close friends. Some see community as an intense crucible for personal growth. For others, it is primarily a place to pioneer their dreams. Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson

Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free. Starhawk

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