The Beloved Community Project of Yellow Springs
 
 

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about us

in the beginning 

"The idea is crazy. Too big. Too many moving pieces. Too ambitious."

We've heard a lot of that. But we've heard more interest, more enthusiasm, more excitement to be bold. To gather together and share our passions, our strengths, our fears, our commitment. To deepen this thing we call community in a place that already does community pretty well. 

In the coming months, this site will grow. You’ll begin to learn more about the twenty-five scholars, pastors, artists, musicians, counselors, educators, poets, writers, activists, and children of the Creator who have gathered together to become The Beloved Community Project of Yellow Springs.

What we do is complex in its simplicity. We believe that all persons of goodwill deserve a spiritual community; we believe that authentic education around important issues like religion and justice can be difficult to find, on and off college campuses, because of financial restrictions and limited access to experts. We put together tailored educational and spiritual programming with authentic voices and perspectives. We can arrange book groups or weekend conferences. We can assist organizations in responding lovingly and affirmatively with issues related to religious and racial conflicts; we can help people to understand more about non-Christian faiths, or even to provide alternate perspectives on religions we know well.

 

Working Mission statement 

Mission Statement : The Beloved Community Project of Yellow Springs (BCPYS) will focus on forming and sustaining an intentional interfaith collective, to include all faith traditions, atheists, agnostics, and nones; will provide tailored educational programming to communities, organizations, and educational institutional in a wide variety of areas, but all with the purpose of advancing harmonious and inclusive community; and will organize and/or participate in nonviolent actions that both facilitate speaking truth to power and involving the legal dismantling of systems or structures that oppress persons or communities. 

Hopes and dreams live here 

We’re not an organization that seeks to compete with anyone else, especially within the Village. Our religious community serves many functions: a supplement for those already within a spiritual discipline who wish to widen their understanding or deep their practice; a point of entry for those who are interested in world religions, especially those represented in Yellow Springs, but are not yet ready to commit to one path or direction; for those who have been abused by traditional organized religion, who seek connection and community along with the permission to say “no” to theologies that do not resonate; and for our atheist, agnostic, and spiritual but not religious who want—and deserve—a space to be spiritual beings without being told they “lack” something crucial.  

we accept time, talent, and treasure. Click if you help us financially as we grow from an idea to a reality. contact us if you want to serve. come see us no matter what. 

 
 
 
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Intentional interfaith collective 

 
 

WE MEAN INTENTIONAL

The world's spiritual traditions are rich with wisdom and possibilities; Yellow Springs in blessed to have persons of almost every major faith tradition, as well as those that are not as well-known but are just as filled with truth and beauty. We come together in order to learn from one another, to grow, to challenge, to be vulnerable, to be willing to listen and speak and love.


WE MEAN INTERFAITH

Atheists. Agnostics. Spiritual but not religious. All are welcome. And not so that one tradition may be elevated above another, but rather so that we may affirm that a person need not believe in God--in a theistic or even polytheistic sense--to be a spiritual being yearning for connection. One can be rooted in philosophy or ethical principles and feel just as connected to themselves, others, and the source of Life as persons who follow a religious tradition. 

WE MEAN COLLECTIVE

 When we gather each month, it is so that we may greet each other anew as longtime friends. We come together to shake off the detritus and shackles that world heaves upon us, to seek out the cool water of reason and affirmation. While there are leaders within the movement, there is no leader of the movement. We come as equals, partners, ones with gifts of the Spirit we wish to share and have affirmed. We are communio
 

LITURGIA SERVICES

On the last Thursday of each month, resuming in January 2017, we will gather for a liturgia service. Literally meaning, "work of the people," this original interfaith format crafted by Rev. Aaron Maurice Saari, Ms. Anna Burke, and Mr. Ryan Stinson that seeks to be invitational, authentic, unique, and powerful. We will gather to be guided by a facilitator ( a new person each month representing a tradition or approach that will guide the experience); featured will be at least two of the following: an original piece of art crafted as a commentary or expression of the theme; an original piece of music/a piece that has been reinterpreted for the occasion; or a spoken word selection meant to push us beyond language through the use of prophetic, energetic, authentic, fearless speech. 

We are ever in the process of speaking to artists, musicians, writers, poets, facilitators, philosophers, gurus, and sojourners. If you are wondering if there might be a place for you here, the answer is yes. Now let's figure out the details together. 


 

 

Through Pastor Aaron, Anna and Ryan, I thought it was a lovely experience. I truly enjoyed being part of it. It most definitely met my expectations. I felt welcome, the atmosphere was relaxed, and I enjoyed the art and music very much.”
— Response to the first liturgia reported through Survey Monkey
 
 
 
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Upcoming events

 
 

Liturgia 

Thursday, January 26
 6-9 PM
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
314 XENIA AVE YSO 45387

 

 

The next event is our January liturgia, held on 1/26. Given the events of NYE and some of the wider conversations going on within the village, we are so happy to be hosting the MLK Beloved Community Scholars from United Theological Seminary as the featured panel.

We will gather at 6 pm for a community meal; come for soup and stay to make new memories. Around 7 we will kick off a drum circle and a community canvas art project; as the Spirit moves us from creativity to contemplation, we will turn our attentions to a panel discussion.

Members of the Beloved Community Scholars reside in Baltimore, D.C., North Carolina, and right here in Yellow Springs (our own Pastor Aaron). PA will emcee a discussion in which the Scholars will share their insights and will offer suggestions regarding how to create a community that supports the type of policing we seek. How do we foster the sort of feeling we had decades ago when most of the police lived locally? How do we address some of the stumbling blocks that are cited as reasons for strained relationships between police and citizenry? Each of them have worked and pastored in communities that have had and continue to have incredibly strained relationships; while the details differ, the goals are the same: the enactment of beloved community.

The aim for this evening is to think about and vision the sort of community structures that will attract the sort of police officers we wish to have, and will help bring them into the fullness of community life and identity.

Join us. Bring a drum. Monetary and food donations accepted. Hugs always welcome.

 

 

the days of traditional tithing are over. communities must seek financial stability in other ways. we honor a system that emphasizes time, talent, and treasure. members of the BCPYS decide for themselves what is best for them, and we honor it.

Right now, everything is done on a volunteer basis. we are searching for funding, but until we are a 501c3 we cannot solicit funds explicitly. however, donations made to individuals are legal. we are not an organization that desires money, but what we deisre to do requires money. we simply trust it will come. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

meet our founding director: rev. Aaron maurice saari

Seriously. If ever a guy is going to play Jesus for 50 years, you want it to be Ted Neeley. He's a mensch. Plus, when on Palm Sunday he attended the church I pastor, I was able to say: "Jesus is in the building, and that means two things."  

 
 

it all started with jesus christ superstar

Memory one: I was six. Maybe seven. Jumping up and down on my sister’s bed when I first heard the story of Jesus. It was told through the soulful voice of the late, great Carl Anderson and the lens of Judas. I was never to be the same again. The words of Tim Rice and the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber started my love affair with Jesus. Here, you see me with the closest I’ve come on this side of the veil, when I was able to meet the incomparable Ted Neeley (and Barry Dennen, who played Pilate, a role I managed to not completely dishonor in 1994 when I took a stab at it). This is an important part of understanding how we got here.  

Memory two: I was eleven years old when I met James Farmer at Antioch College. My father was the PR director, and Farmer was on a tour for his book, Lay Bare the Heart. In the middle of the speech, Farmer took a small pill box out of his pocked and popped a pill, before continuing to talk and answer questions. When he finally came off the stage, he looked at my father and said, “Doc, I do believe I have had a heart attack. You might want to call the ambulance.” I was always a sensitive child and I broke into tears when the medics placed Farmer on the gurney. Noticing a child in distress, the great man pulled off his oxygen mask, grabbed my small hand, and said, “Son, don’t worry. I’ll be alright. I’ve been through much worse.” I knew at that moment he was the type of person I wanted to become. 

Except for a few years in Michigan, Ireland, and West Hollywood, I have called Yellow Springs home since I was ten years old. A 1994 graduate of Yellow Springs High School, I rebelled against my atheist/agnostic upbringing by becoming a religion major. A series of bad decisions and life circumstances later, I landed at Antioch and graduated with a BA in Humanities. I immediately began pursuing an MA in Theology at Xavier University in order to be the next Richard Dawkins when my beloved older brother, Stephen, who suffered from schizophrenia, took his own life. I had his Paul on the Damascus Road experience, something I detail in my book The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot: A Meditation on Suicide. Thinking I was going to be a biblical scholar, I went on to earn an MA in English Literature and was on the faculties of Antioch University, The University of Dayton, and Xavier University over the course of nearly ten years. I taught courses on the Gospel of Mark, Hasidic Judaism, Buddhism, Religion and Literature, Christian History, and everyone’s favorite: English 101 and 102.  

As I crested past 30 years old I began to wonder what I was really doing to do with my life. Adjuncting is tough, demanding work that offers little pay. Spiritually, I felt like I was in limbo; I had converted to Christianity and talked a good game, but I wasn't very engaged. I made a new year's resolution in 2009: find a church by Easter. And I did. Don't look for it now. It's gone, but those who know will attest to the special place that was Cross Creek Community Church. I am a proud member of the successor congregation, Harmony Creek Church. That pretty much changed everything. I quickly discerned that God was leading me to the ministry, and when a wonderful scholarship opportunity presented itself, I began matriculating at United Theological Seminary. I graduated in 2013 with a perfect 4.0, and was soon ordained by the United Church of Christ (UCC). God has a sense of humor though; despite promising that I would never take a pulpit in my hometown nor would I pastor outside of the UCC , I found myself as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs.

The past three years have been life-altering. 

I left Xavier one year after assuming the pulpit for two reasons: One, my visiting professor contract was up and I didn't want to return to the adjunct pool; and two, I felt once again like I was playing at being a Christian. I could pontificate and string together pretty words all day long, but I began asking myself what I was really doing to follow Christ. Sure, I was a pastor. But I was hired for only 18 hours and the pay was/is not one my wife and I can sustain ourselves on. I knew that I had to take another job but I felt like it had to be ministry. I accepted a job with Dayton Ministries in Higher Education for their Jubilee Year. Little did I know that God was preparing me for what you are reading right now. 

DMHE was prototypical of a campus ministry: filled with passionate people trying to make do with less money, less resources, less access to students, less time, and a changing educational landscape that requires educators to function like corporate employees. Mainline Protestant denominations that had long funded campus ministries are themselves struggling financially; fewer and fewer campuses can justify a campus ministry, and fewer students want one that is Christo-centric. As I worked with the incredible people of DMHE and Sinclair College, where I was based,  we moved the campus ministry more fully toward a multifaith identity, re-branding them as the Multifaith Campus Alliance (MCA). After a year and a half, I decided to step down. I am proud of the work we did together, and I wish the organization continued success with their new minister. I resigned for two reasons: health and a sense of call. I firmly believe God allowed me to glimpse what we are hoping to to with the BCPYS. 

Once again broke and wondering what was next, I decided to take six months, only work one job (the audacity!), and to give a terminal degree one more shot. That is when I discovered Rev. Dr. C. Anthony Hunt's cohort at UTS and I became one of the first five MLK Beloved Community Scholars, the first doctoral program dedicated exclusively to the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's concept of Beloved Community. I am invigorated and inspired by my colleagues, and I am in Baltimore at least twice a year, so stay tuned for those updates because we get crazy for Jesus when we all gets together :) 

I'm back at Xavier to help make ends meet, but my passion is here. With this project. I have spent 20 years developing relationships with people of all different backgrounds and spiritual affiliations. I am sometimes the only Christian the person knows or trusts. I have no agenda to try to convert anyone, or to shift them toward my way of thinking. What I have noticed is that many of the people whom I love deeply find themselves worn down by their fights, the requirements of their existences, the draining nature of justice work or of living on the margins. I realized that I have much privilege and I can use it to help create safe space and then retreat into the background. If there is anything about this project I will take possession of in an ego-driven, prideful way it is this: the diversity across ethnicity, race, gender expression, sexual orientation, philosophy, religion, and age is remarkable. We're creating something that is about healing, empowering, and acting. We refuse to be told that it can't be done. We reject notions that we have to adhere to a model with which we had nothing to do with crafting. 

This project is not about me. Not really. Not now. Now that it is out there, it belongs to us. And there's a place for you here. You just need to tell us what, and help us to help you so that you may help others. Maybe you need us to play the role of teacher. Maybe you need facilitators. Maybe you need spiritual community. Maybe you don't know yet and we don't know yet, but we'll know when we see each other. So, please. Let's see each other. 

We are the Beloved Community Project of Yellow Springs.  

 

meet our directors 

 
 
 
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Anna Burke,Artistic director 

art is central to our mission at the bcpys, and we are honored to have anna (or as we call her, rusty ace) serving as our artistic director.

to read about Anna's role at the project, click here;

To learn more about anna as a person, click here 

to contact anna, email: burkeanna78@gmail.com

 

ryan stinson, musical director 

coming soon! 

sommer mcguire, director of social justice concerns

coming soon!

 
 

claire monserrat jackson, director of gender identity and justice

coming soon! 

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alexandra scott, director of community activism 

As the director of Community Activism, I will help lead the organization in seeking out and pursuing opportunities to participate in social justice activism within the Yellow Springs Community and beyond. I will use Event Coordinating skills to help come up with ideas for and organize BCPYS events, including fundraising events and demonstrations, that will help towards achieving the organization’s goals and advancing the general cause of intersectional equality in the US and the world beyond. 

erika tallet, communications director 

coming soon! 

 
 

kate hamilton, community photographer

coming soon!

shawn jones, senior house elf

coming soon! 

Christina fox, managing business director 

coming soon! 

 
 

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Photos

 
 
 

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CONTACT US

 

We are at the beginning stages of our project, but we already know that we want to hear from you.