Dwelling Together

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for people to dwell together.” – Psalm 133:1


With the end of another summer we come once again to our season of returning. Of course, many of us never left at all and stayed connected to our spiritual community through Facebook, our suppers program and informal gatherings, and the excellent lay led services that we held together at Dane Street Beach, these past few months. We Unitarian Universalists are among the last hold-outs of the “summer recess” approach to congregational activity. (And that trend seems to be on its way out even for us, if this article is any indication.) Still, there is an ebb of sorts in the life of our community during the summer months. But now we are back!

And it is good to be back. There is much that we can accomplish as individuals, but the possibilities become greater in community, almost magically so. Simply to build and maintain a community of any sort is an accomplishment and a good in and of itself, as the line from Psalm 133 (above) counsels us. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (among others) all teach that the spirit of the Holy becomes most present when people gather to serve a purpose greater than their private interests.

But it is not selflessness or abstract goodness that draws us together into community. It is really and truly good for us to be in relationship with one another. To have people we can turn to in times of crisis and hardship. To be among folks who can remind us of who we want to be. There’s a fable from Aesop about a body whose constituent parts decided that all would go their own way, and look out only for themselves. They did this to spite the stomach; the feet refused to walk to where food could be found, the hands declined the action to feed, the mouth refused to eat, etc. But eventually, each of those pieces had to realize that they were all a part of the same self, as each began to waste away because they would not work together for nourishment. Together we have a wholeness that cannot be found apart.

This is not simply true for our particular community: it applies to the whole of humanity. As we gather into groups to practice compassion and support towards each other, we become more spiritually healthy – our souls are better nourished. And likewise when our groups find ways to work together, and be in relationship with each other in life-giving and constructive ways, there is a new level of wholeness. We gain something we might not have noticed we were lacking before, but which we are glad for once we have found it. Each Sunday we remind ourselves and each other that our covenant includes the commitment to dwell together in peace. This means that we have a duty to each other to be together – to come to worship or a small group meeting or any other chance to connect – and a duty to help each other be there as well.

On the subject of groups working together, the Essex County Community Organization, a network of congregations working together to effect positive change in their communities here on the North Shore, is in the midst of a project I’m personally excited about. ECCO is engaged in a campaign to draw in new congregations and foster a dialog about what the critical issues effecting lives lived in our area are, in order to build power together to move beyond addressing symptoms to addressing the causes of injustice. If any of that sounds like something you’d be interested in learning more about, please contact me. As our new church year begins, however you engage with our beloved community, I look forward to working, and dwelling, together with you.


In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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