Awaken Dane: Plenary on Belonging with Dr. Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer January 15, 2022

Countering a Crisis of Belonging — A Calling for the Local Church Hosted by Awaken Dane (https://awakendane.org), a cohort-based initiative that envisions a movement of churches awakening to God’s call, forming life-giving friendships and partnerships, and growing in love for their home communities.

The U.S. is facing a crisis of belonging, evidenced by epidemic loneliness and virulent polarization. Having lost a sense of shared identity as Americans and shared trust in most institutions, we are splintering into groups defined by opposition to one another. Even more troubling, many churches now situate themselves within this polarization—a church for progressives, a church for conservatives, a church for social action, a church for theological purity, and on and on.

As a result, many are struggling with belonging and trying to discern how to situate themselves as Christians. In what, or in Whom, do we find our true identity? At the heart of Christian affirmation and practice is the conviction that we, collectively, are united in baptism and by our participation in the body of Christ, through his life, death, and resurrection. In fact, baptismal belonging—to God and to one another across denominational lines—is supposed to be the anchor for our personal and group identity, chastening our partisan and ideological associations. How might we more fully grasp and embody this truth in our church contexts?

Just as we yearn to be fully situated in Christ, we also yearn for a solid sense of shared (embodied) community—another anchor for identity. In our diffuse, media-saturated culture, where so much communication happens in disembodied space, place matters more than ever. It is in particular places that we as the church can reconstruct and live out our Christian identity and ultimately promote shalom as we bear witness to God’s good news and care for our neighborhoods. The multifaceted church is, in fact, poised to model a place-rooted sense of identity with shalom-rich potential—a prophetic counter to our culture’s struggle with where and to whom we ultimately belong.

Program co-hosts, Phil Haslanger (retired United Church of Christ minister and former managing editor of The Capital Times) and Rebecca Cooks (Hospitality Manager at Upper House) interviewed Dr. Palmer. They facilitated an engaging morning of Q & A.