As we encounter division in our culture and communities, Father Dave welcomes award-winning author and Christian Pastor Rich Villodas for a timely conversation about his new book “Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World.”
Villodas is the lead Pastor of New Life Fellowship, which is a large, multiracial church in Queens, NY with more than 75 countries represented. “It’s in an area [that] ‘National Geographic’ called ‘the most diverse zip code in the world,’” he says, explaining how this gives them unique insight into societal issues.
“Whatever fractures are out in our world find their way in our congregation,” Villodas says. “It’s been a training ground for our souls to learn how to love well, which I think is the essence of Christian faith and following Jesus.”
Father Dave notes the temptation to romanticize living in diverse communities, and Villodas offers thoughts on how we can best love others despite our differences. He says how we are called to do more than just “prioritize aesthetic diversity” and instead be “the new family of Jesus.” He continues, “I don’t know about everyone else’s families [who are] listening, but my family has had issues, and we’ve had to work through some things.”
Healing these divisions is the subject of his new book, and he suggests starting with contemplative prayer. “I do believe the essence of transformation is found in prayer,” Villodas says. “I think what happens in contemplative prayer…is just slowing down to be with God for the sake of training our souls to be with others.”
They also discuss how healthy conflict can help solve many issues. However, Father Dave observes that, “People don’t like any kind of conflict, and it’s almost like the thing we avoid more than anything else.” Villodas thinks that we associate conflict with “unhealth” and that by reframing our definition, we can use conflict to be “a gateway to wholeness” rather than an obstacle.
Villodas also says that humility is a “gateway virtue” that can help us let down our defenses and open ourselves up to wholeness in society. “Our world is so defensive,” he says. “We talk in our congregation about [how] the level of our ‘offendability’ often reveals our level of maturity. And how do we lower the walls of our defenses so that we can truly be present with others as opposed to living out of a place of reactivity?” This also makes room for forgiveness to grow in our lives.
Despite our divisions, Villodas has reasons for hope, specifically in our Christian communities. “I think I’m most hopeful in Jesus’ commitment to seeing the church flourish,” he says. “And at the same time, I am seeing glimmers of goodness and beauty and kindness in our world.”