The Beloved Community Project @ Westmont is an unofficial initiative that seeks to forge partnerships and cultivate fellowship between members of the Westmont community who desire to work toward healing, equity, and justice on matters of race at our college.
Awakened to how students, faculty, and staff of color have often been marginalized and suffered in their experience of the prevailing majority culture of our college, we come together, recognizing how we are each implicated in and suffer from racist systems that dehumanize us, and how our college needs further institutional change and cultural transformation in order to embody and embrace God’s vision of peace and justice across racial divides. We see this work as a natural part of our abiding commitment and love for the college and its people, and an essential piece of our Christian call to participate in the Kingdom of God, which restores us to perfect communion with God and with each other.
WHAT DOES THE BCP DO?
As an initiative, the Beloved Community Project (BCP) intends to serve two key functions:
Help to encourage, connect, and coordinate different efforts that various individuals or groups undertake to address race matters at Westmont College.
Create opportunities to draw together concerned members in prayer, worship, and fellowship, recognizing that the work of racial healing, equity and justice is a holy and spiritual work.
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The name of this initiative is inspired by Dr. King’s use of the term, “beloved community,” to cast a theological vision in which all people can live together peaceably with dignity and wholeness, seeing themselves and others as cherished children of God.
Drawing on the foundational reality and power of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, the Beloved Community Project believes that “love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred” as promised when the Kingdom of God is fully manifest. We believe that we are called both to achieve institutional change that more actively moves toward racial equity and justice, and also to the more difficult work of “the daily disciplines and sacrifices required to sustain beloved community.”
As such, to participate in the Beloved Community Project is to participate in a journey--both individual and collective. We seek to become a pilgrim-people who understand and take on the Christ-centered disciplines of love, lament, hope, humility, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation as life-long commitments necessary to truly being the People of God.
Finally, to name this initiative “The Beloved Community Project” is not a claim of achievement, but rather an effort to pin down a dream and aspiration. Insofar as Christians are called to live out lives as a “demonstration plot” of God’s Kingdom in this eschatological moment of living in between the now and the not yet, this project hopes to encourage a quality of leadership and fellowship that can serve as a model and inspiration for ourselves, our local community, and other Christian colleges and churches.
WHO IS THE BCP?
Participation in the BCP is open to students, staff, faculty, and any other concerned friends of Westmont who desire to work for racial healing, justice, and equity in our college. This all-inclusive approach to participation is intentional for strategic and philosophical reasons. Being inclusive is strategic because we recognize a deep need for conversations and alliances across different constituencies of the college. Being inclusive is philosophical because we recognize how the status and hierarchies that are built into the institutional structures of academic communities often create unhelpful dynamics of power, which prevent us from genuine learning from each other and experiencing the generative creativity, mobilization, and mutual respect and love necessary for this effort.
We believe that each person’s experience, perspective, approach, gifting, skills, and calling is essential to affecting real change at Westmont and becoming the people we desire to be as we each strive to follow Jesus’s call on our lives. And while the BCP is a new initiative, we recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey of working to combat racism at Westmont for a long time, and we are eager to listen and learn from those who have gone on before us in this work.
We are not a monolithic group of people. Among us are those who consider themselves peace-makers. Among us are those who consider themselves justice-makers. Among us are those who consider themselves healers and encouragers. In the peace-making, we work not only for a cessation of conflict, but we hope in God’s capacity to use us as instruments of His shalom. In the justice-making, we work not only for social reform and activism, but we hope in God’s capacity to use us as a prophetic voice of lament and instruments of His redemption of our broken institutions and systems of social organization. In the pursuit of healing and encouragement, we work not only for internal well-being and personal growth, but we hope in God’s capacity to use us in His work of bringing about beauty from ashes, mourning to praise.
WE HOPE THAT….
….participation in this Project would allow us to know ourselves more fully as the people of God we are created and called to be. That means that we realize that we are all bound together; that we may have different work to do based on our different positions in society, but that we are all called to engage in this work; that we are weaker when our actions and inactions fail to honor the dignity of every single beloved creature of God; that we must listen to one another even when it is hard to do so.
...this project would be just that: a project. It is not a standing committee. It is not an advisory group. It is a project that has work to complete. And when that work is complete, it will end. Projects are not “institutes” or “committees”--they are temporary. They serve a purpose in hopefully establishing the groundwork for aspects of the college that will indeed become institutionalized, enmeshed into the systemic fabric of the way we do things at Westmont, and taken-for-granted as part of the culture that defines what it means to be a student or to work at Westmont.
...as this project takes shape, we can help to facilitate conversations and catalyze strategic initiatives between groups who are engaging in work to undo the systemic racism that we have inherited and improve the racial climate of our campus. To do this, we hope that the BCP will be a community of regular prayer, worship, and fellowship that is characterized by repentance, mutual learning, and a willingness to look hard at the ways in which both our institutional structures and personal behaviors often alienate, exclude and marginalize persons of color in our community. Lord, have mercy on us for our blindness and hardness of heart, transform us as we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, that we might bear witness to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, who reconciles all things to Himself.
–Felicia Song and Edward Song, Conveners