Building “A Beloved Community” through January’s Month of Service

Monday, Dec 21, 2020
by Sabrina Fay ’22, Pace Center Student Correspondent

The John H. Pace, Jr. ’39 Center for Civic Engagement’s fifth annual Month of Service will be an undertaking in adaptation and innovation, as the upcoming celebration of service and engagement will be entirely virtual. Month of Service, spanning from January 4 through January 29, 2021, will encapsulate what makes civic engagement so rewarding and continue to draw on the event’s original inspiration from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the theme of “A Beloved Community.” 

According to the King Center, “The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce. However, it was King who popularized the term as a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. 

2020 has been a year of trials and obstacles, and the call to serve has seldom been so loud. But when direct action is hindered by current circumstances, it can make it seem as though there is little to be done, or make one feel cut off from those they should be most connected to and wish to serve. By coordinating opportunities for community engagement and connection with both oneself and others, the Pace Center and Month of Service community partners aim to illustrate that community is still present and strong, even in the virtual landscape and especially during times of difficulty like those many have gone through in the past year. 

With a focus on engaging at home -- wherever home may be -- Month of Service aims to center  efforts around issues of hunger and homelessnes, which in many ways have been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a Community Guide, Month of Service participants can get to know organizations in the greater-Princeton community, like HomeFront, AnchorHouse, and the Princeton Period Project, and support needs that they have identified. 

“There are ample ways to be of service that are safe and meaningful,” says Charlotte Collins, associate director of the Pace Center. “I also encourage us all to use this moment in time as an opportunity to build and nurture relationships with community partners and learn about their work. Having a deep understanding of community needs and the work of community partner organizations is the foundation for all meaningful service opportunities.” 

In addition, Month of Service couples service with learning and reflection through a wide range of workshops, such as Engage at Home, Community Arts Conversations, and Allyship Through Mutual Aid. With both learning and service, reflection and action, this Month of Service not only strengthens the Princeton community but shows it and the people within love through engagement and volunteering. 

As Collins puts it, “One of the most special things about the concept of a Beloved Community is that it is not bound or limited by time or space. The Beloved Community is all of us, genuinely caring about each other and supporting each other as we engage in the world. That is something we can do no matter where we are, even during this time of the pandemic. Taking time to listen to others, to make space to learn from others, and to extend grace and care are all ways we can bring the theme of Beloved Community to life.” 

This Month of Service, we all have the opportunity to take action, produce change, and reflect on all that we have been through and accomplished so far in our communities around Princeton, around our homes, around the world, and around ourselves. Learn more and view the calendar of events on the Month of Service webpage.