Six guiding principles: mutuality

This is the first of six blog posts explaining more about our core values, which we previously posted here.
Homelessness is a series of losses, spanning from loss of income to loss of identity and personhood. The way we fight homelessness is to work to restore those losses. But the biggest losses, such as loss of job, income, and housing, are the easiest to restore, and there are lots of agencies working on doing just that. The hardest losses to restore are the intangible ones – personhood, respect, choice, and agency.
One of the most effective tools at our disposal to restore those losses is hospitality. Which should be really good news to the church, because we profess to know something about that.
We believe that hospitality consists of six principles. Over the next several weeks, we’re reiterating those principles here on our blog. The first principle is mutuality.
MLKMutualityQuoteMost outreach work is predicated on the idea that “we” can meet “their” needs. We believe that we can meet each other’s needs, if we are willing to enter into a relationship based on the belief that we all have inherent value and worth. Mutuality involves seeing people as your peer and not as students to be taught or children to be monitored. We typically sort people by looking for differences. In mutuality, we sort people by looking for commonalities.
Dr. King eloquently described this in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail:”
In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.
One of our guiding principles is ordering our lives together around this understanding of the interrelated structure of reality.
What does this look like in practical terms? As Hugh explained in this blog post:
A lot of our work is about breaking down power dynamics.
For instance, I seldom play the preacher card. The “Rev.” before my name is useful, especially when dealing with those who would use power against our folks, but I just prefer to be called Hugh.
And at our Community Engagement Center, we don’t wear uniforms. We do have name badges, but that is mostly so visitors know who actually works there.
And if you call, there is a really high chance that whoever answers the phone slept at the shelter last night, and the coffee was probably made by someone who doesn’t get a paycheck. The guy who shows you around when you stop by probably lives in a tent. Because you don’t need a title or a paycheck to show someone else around your community.
In our worship service, we limit the sermon to 8 minutes, leaving the rest of the time as open space for the community to respond: Because The Spirit doesn’t speak exclusively to, or through, those behind the pulpit.
When we look for commonalities we find them. Then we find out we’re more alike than different and come to know each other. And once we get to know each other, we become friends based on our commonality, and what makes each of us unique and special becomes things that endear us to each other instead of keeping us apart. As we become friends, we come to care about each other, and then community has happened to us. We’ve become an “us” because community is founded on mutuality.