Covenant, Solidarity, and Neighborliness

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, June 7, 2024

The great crisis among us is the crisis of ‘the common good,’ the sense of community solidarity that binds all in a common destiny—haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor.

—Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good

Since the burst of gun violence erupted in the neighborhood around our church last week, I’ve been thinking about how vulnerable all of us in the area became at that moment. Our differences in race, income, religion, ethnicity, and any other identity or characteristic provided no advantage to anyone over another when a shooter and the police called to restore safety traded gunfire. While I was proud to hear how quickly our staff and security personnel acted to protect those in our building, I thought of everyone living near us, in the homes and apartments, and working in the shops and buildings. How are they doing? How are we doing in our show of neighborliness? How can the covenant that binds us together as a beloved community inspire a spirit of solidarity and covenant with those around us?

Those questions of covenant, solidarity, and neighborliness take on a new urgency given the current safety challenges in our city. As we close out another program year, our Board of Outreach, Reimagining Community Safety Committee, and Campus Task Force 2.0 continue to plan, organize, and imagine how to address them. And yet, I wonder if we can get to the crux of the matter that presses on us as a church in the public square, to what being in relationship with God and following the way with Jesus requires of us in the face of the fear, poverty, division, and violence those who call this neighborhood home are feeling. I wonder, because when people talk about church or religion, I suspect the church’s penchant for rules, creeds, regulations, and traditions says more about us than our acts of neighborliness.

Our commitment to naming and condemning violence and atrocities against vulnerable people has been unwavering. However, it’s crucial to remember that our actions, our gatherings, our organization, and our treatment of our neighbors all stem from our call to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The theologian Walter Brueggemann powerfully argues that the project of the faithful, both biblically and spiritually, is the “insistence that power in the community must be deployed differently in order to have a neighborhood.” The writer Farah Jasmine Griffin poses a thought-provoking question, “How do we treat each other? Do we mirror and echo the values of the larger society or do we live by an alternative set of values?” These perspectives should not only provoke but also inspire us to pay closer attention to what is happening around us and to bring our best ideas, abundant resources, and moral imagination to bear in securing the common good for this neighborhood.