What It Really Means to “Hold” Community

So, since it’s the best/only thing that I could figure out to do, I’ve been sitting every morning for a few minutes at my altar, continuing to hold Greater Paganistan in my heart. It’s interesting to me the many ways in which, once you start to pay attention to something, the Universe begins to shower you with gifts directed towards your attention. (Energy, as we Witches say, follows attention.) The other morning, the Universe sent me this post by the brilliant Joe Gerstandt. (Hat tip to my brilliant friend who turned me on to JG.) Gerstandt’s not, that I know, a Pagan, but it’s as if he were writing directly to today’s Pagans, wrapped up in the recent controversy from Pantheacon:

The word community gets thrown around a lot today. I see and hear lots of conversations about building community, managing community, [One could add: about “Holding Beloved Community.”], etc.

* * *

I think that real community demands a certain amount of mutual commitment, a certain amount of relational courage. If we break it down to the basics, relationships can be built of two things, difference and commonality. Between all humans there exists difference and commonality and in healthy, generative relationships both are shared.

But that is hard to do. It is much easier (at least in the short run) to just focus on one or the other and that is what most groups do. Groups of people have very strong tendencies toward focusing just on their commonality or just on their differences. Both are problematic. (emphasis added.)

When we choose to focus only on commonality, we are subordinating individual identities to group identity. To do this we have to ignore, deny and remove difference. Highly conformist, this approach creates false, cosmetic community. When we prioritize our individual differences, we cannot come together at all. We are subordinating group identities to individual identities and this approach results in silos, segregation, borders, walls and generally some form of violence.


There are people that will tell you that group identities (nation, gender, political party, profession) should always take priority over individual identities. There are also plenty of people that will tell you that group identities should always be subordinate to the individual.

As usual, I think that the truth lies in the middle. Whether you are talking about an actual community, an organization, a virtual network or some other social entity, a robust and creative community demands a dynamic balance of both.

It requires that we choose to belong to each other. It does not require us to like each other or agree with each other…it requires us to be committed to both caring for the container of commonality and the individual differences inside. (emphasis added.)

It’s hard work. There is nuance and flexibility involved. It requires prioritizing and investing in relationships. It requires listening and dialogue, maturity and courage. It requires “I” and “we” language, not “them” and “they.”

It takes courage to live in paradox. Real, living community requires us to embrace both the truth that we are all different and the truth that we are all the same. It is paradoxical and it is not simple or easy, that is why it requires courage.
Be good to each other.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself. “Relational courage.” Dear Greater Paganistan: this is my wish for you today.

Picture found here.

One response to “What It Really Means to “Hold” Community

  1. Beautifully and elegantly stated. In my experience, the strength, health, and longevity of all types of relationships is largely proportional to the degree that the participants understand these principles and put them into practice.

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