What challenges do these Commitments pose?
I think for all of the Commitments, the challenge is that they’re idealistic. We charge ourselves with these grand ideals, the kind of ideals that we’re never going to fully attain, because we are a community of people, we are imperfect. But it gives us this clear light that we’re following, this goal that we’re working toward. So, specifically with the Christian Commitment, I think a challenge would be that, in reality, people and communities often are divided by matters of belief. And so for us to say we come from many different faiths and that we can work toward this common ideal, that we identify as ‘Christian,’ that of radical and inclusive love, is bold.
And that’s challenging for some people, because we, of the Berea College community, come from many different faiths. We have particular beliefs that are not the same as those of the people we’re working alongside with. So I think that requires us all to have an open mind and an open heart, and to be open to listen and learn about where the people we are working with are coming from, to accept that we and our beliefs might be different. And then hopefully to look for those common underlying values of creating a community of inclusive love that can bind us together, even as we work alongside each other with different beliefs, different faith traditions, and backgrounds.
A challenge of the labor commitment is that there is a variety in the work that we do. It is not always clear or easy what work do we need to do to achieve our goals, and sometimes work needs to be done that isn’t fun or glamorous. And, again, we might disagree on how we need to work to get toward our goals, I think that’s a common challenge of any workplace. One of the things that we try to focus on here in CELTS is that all of our work is team-based. And so the focus is really on what we accomplish together, it’s not usually on elevating an individual, or on calling attention to an individual for being exceptional in their work.
It’s about trying to focus more on what we’re accomplishing in collaboration with each other, that each person can play a role, and that our roles are different. It’s important to be clear about what the roles are in any given situation, but the work is more about what we’re doing together as a team. Teamwork is exceptionally rewarding, but it takes work to get to the place where it’s rewarding, and it takes hard work to listen to each other, to work through disagreements, and to find, not just your common goal, but the agreed upon path about how we’re going to get to that goal.
How do these Commitments interrelate? How do they connect for you?
In the work that I get to do through CELTS, our focus is on service, working, and partnership with the community. So I think they interrelate, because that’s the core of the work that we do, that’s how we’re learning and growing. And that’s also how we are creating community and living out that underlying belief of radical inclusive love, so by serving and learning together we are hopefully working to create a stronger community, a community that values all people, and that provides opportunities for all people to thrive and be empowered. That’s how I see them connecting.