My friend Laura Mariko Cheifetz has recently written twice about communities of accountability. As she notes:
I could operate all by myself as an individual, but that would be a lie. I am who I am because of the communities that form(ed) me and support(ed) me.
Laura notes that in some instances, she reports to communities of accountability. In other cases, while that word might be too strong, she still exist in, and nurtures, relationship with that community.
After reflecting on some of the communities to which she is accountable, Laura poses the question:
What are your communities of accountability? Your church? Your neighborhood? How do you stay accountable to them?
I would name a number of such communities in my life. The list that follows is not necessarily in order of importance. It is the communities in the order that they occur to me – bearing in mind that I am on a new allergy medication at the moment. I am accountable to:
- the Presbytery of New York City
- the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- the staff of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
- the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministry
- the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board
- colleagues within the UN community and across the church who work for justice
- the community where I live
- a circle of friends built through the years – a circle that expands and contracts as we move through life
- people of color (and white people) with whom I seek to challenge racism
- women (and men) with whom I seek to challenge sexism
- LGBT sisters and brothers (and straight brothers and sisters) with whom I seek to challenge heterosexism
- young people (and older people) with whom I seek to challenge ageism
How do I stay accountable? In different ways with different groups at different times. Sometimes accountability comes in filling in forms and making reports. Sometimes accountability comes through being together and engaging in conversation. Sometimes accountability comes from recalling lessons taught and values shared. Sometimes accountability comes in remembering – allowing people’s faces and voices to fill my mind when we are far apart.
Two areas for further work come to me as I reflect on communities of accountability:
- Where do my communities intersect? Who is part of more than one community? What does that mean? Is it something to nurture intentionally? How would I do that?
- Where do I need to build new communities of accountability? The area of economic justice and injustice is one area that comes to mind immediately. Where else? What will that take on my part?
I have much to ponder. And I am grateful to Laura for opening this area of thought for me.
But before I close, I want to give a shout-out to a community of accountability that means a great deal to me at the moment. About two months ago, I decided to make another effort at self-care. I have made some remarkable progress although a long, long, long way remains to go. The effort combines exercise (walking at the moment) and reducing calories. I regularly bore Facebook with the information about my exercise for each day. That simple act somehow helps hold me accountable. Friends comment from time to time – different friends each time. Their feedback matters; but it is the posting that makes the difference.
I have also created a community of accountability – pulling together a number of friends and family who have expressed concern for my health – and who have voiced support for my efforts. This group receives weekly and monthly updates on my progress in terms of eating and exercise and weight loss and blood sugar control.
Some individuals have asked to be part of the group. Others I have drafted. I blind copy the group with the emails so they do not necessarily know who else is a member.
Each report receives a few responses – no one responds all the time – everyone responds once in a while. I deeply appreciate the responses. But even more deeply, I appreciate that the group members are willing to receive my updates.
To the members of this accountability group – to my family and friends – I say thank you. With your support, I have made a great start. The journey continues.
See you along the Trail.