Life Together is committed to building a new kind of Church—a Church that is a school of love. It is a church not defined by what it believes, but by how it loves: by its experience and practice of the love we believe makes us human. Coming from a Christian church, we understand our calling and our identity in the distinctive language and symbols of the Christian Faith, but we believe our tradition is only one way of naming the deep truths at the heart of all human identity and moral experience. It is one way of telling a story we all share. For us, the Church is, ultimately, the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is, ultimately, the entire human community, created in love.
By love we do not mean simply a feeling—a community of love is not a place where people go just to feel good about themselves, or just to be nice to one another. Love can have those effects, but we think love is far more rewarding and far more challenging than that. Genuine love—divine love, fully human love—is revelatory and transformative. Revelatory because it reveals who and what we really are, at the core of our identity, and who and what God is. Transformational because the experience of love enables us each to become more fully who we are meant to be and empowers us to transform, together, the suffering world we find around us into the world God—and human beings—dream of.
At the heart of our theology are three core beliefs, or three pieces of “good news” about ourselves that we believe are revealed by our experience of love:
ORIGINAL BLESSING BY GOD
God is love, and God created the universe from overflowing love, endowing it with beauty, mystery, dignity, and goodness. Before all else, we, like all Creation, are beloved. But human beings had the unique gift of being made not only from God’s love, but in God’s image. We have the gift, and the responsibility, of manifesting God’s love, of representing and embodying God to each other and the world.
VOCATION TO RELATIONSHIP & COMMUNITY
God is relationship. God’s own being is defined by loving relationship to self (the meaning of the Christian symbol of the Trinity), and loving relationship to Creation. As with God, so with us, made in God’s image: we do not lose, but find and become our individual selves in and through our relationships to each other, through community. As equals beloved of God, the kind of relationships we are called to are respectful, loving, reciprocal, and affirming of difference—the same kind of relationships modeled by God.
PARTNERSHIP IN REALIZING GOD'S DREAM FOR OUR WORLD
God dreams of a world in which every member of God’s creation becomes fully enlivened or awakened to their truest self. Our human world as we find it, however, falls far short of that dream: it is a world of suffering and injustice, much of which we inflict on ourselves. But being made in God’s image means God has empowered us, through the unique gifts given to each of us and through the power we find in our relationships, to be partners in creation—and to work together for the world we all dream of.
We do not think these beliefs are just meant to be learned intellectually; they are meant to ground the way we live and inform our practice. We identify three kinds of transformative practice—three interconnected ways of opening ourselves to love—at the heart of our work:
Practices of communion are those by which we open ourselves to our own deep belovedness, or, in other language, the goodness, abundance, beauty, and peace at the root of our being. Contemplative, meditative, and presencing practices are practices of communion.
Practices of compassion are those by which we open ourselves to deep connection with, and care for, others—by challenging ourselves to see and love others truly for who they are, neither ignoring them nor loving them only on our own terms. Listening deeply to the stories of others is a practice of compassion.
Practices of co-creation are those by which we open ourselves to the power we have been given to change the world through intentional collaboration with others. Practices of co-creation reflect the leadership arts of community organizing, such as shared leadership, structured relationship-building, and collaborative visioning and strategizing.
Way to Transformation
Through these three sets of practices we believe we find the way to transformation: the inner transformation of ourselves and the outer transformation of the world around us. Inner transformation lifts us out of our patterns of fear, self-doubt, shame, and anger, into the steadfastness of inner peace, purpose, power, and self-love: out of our false selves, into our true selves. Transformed within, we are better able to work for the transformation of the world, into the world of peace, justice, and community we long to see and say yes to.
But make no mistake: we do not believe either kind of transformation is ever sudden or easy. Transformation is long and difficult. It is never “over and done with,” but ongoing. There are no quick formulas or simple answers, only open-ended practices that require faith, commitment, and creativity in the face of uncertainty. We speak of “practices” because we are always “practicing,” trying again and again. In this school of love, we’re all teachers and students together.
One could also speak of being “companions on the way of love.” Because we are all learning and teaching together through practice, we are all on a common journey. Each of our paths is our own—no two exactly alike—but they all intertwine in ways we cannot even imagine. That’s because we only discover ourselves through each other. You reveal to me who I am, and I reveal to you who you are. And we only transform ourselves through loving each other.
As Christians, we call the way along which we walk “The Jesus Way,” after the one who taught it to our tradition and embodied it most completely—as a human model, and, we believe, as God made human. You may have another name for the way of love. You may call it the Torah, the Dharma, or the path of Justice. And you may have other ways of understanding and practicing it. So much the better. We do not ask you to leave those behind; we ask you to bring them along. We are eager to share and learn from you. All we ask is that you walk with us.