February 23, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley
Editor's note: People are making history every day in California-Nevada. Throughout 2023 we will be spotlighting clergy and laity who work to make life better for people down the street and across the country.
“I have big plans,” states Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery, PhD, recently retired pastor of the UMC California Nevada Annual Conference, during a recent Zoom interview about what he is currently doing to make a difference in the world. A non-profit, coaching ministry and writing a book are among some of the endeavors Ivery focuses on with a common theme of building intentional inclusive community. “I would like this work to move beyond my local community, beyond our annual conference, beyond our state because of what we can do virtually. By way of our digital reality the outreach can go far and wide.”
“We are passionate about our work,” states Ivery. In 2017, while a pastor at Geneva Avenue UMC in San Francisco, Ivery started a non-profit called, The Center for Intentional Inclusive Community with co-founder Dr. Carmen Carter. “We are inspired by the hope that by working together, with heightened awareness and commitment, using all of our unique abilities, we can build a better world.”
“We’re at this place where I’ve never seen it so divided. How did we get here? How do we get out of it? It’s precisely because people haven’t interacted in positive ways that we’re here. People are using their fears to further push people apart… and I think somehow we’ve got to find a way to come together, or we will become further divided,” states Ivery. “I think my work is even more pertinent because I think we can definitely help with that.”
Ivery and Carter want to help people in churches, and in the community at large, address issues beyond the mere awareness of cross cultural differences, systemic racism, and implicit bias to the actual practical applications of that knowledge. “I’ve been involved in cross cultural appointments most of my ministry,” explains Ivery. “People are empathetic, but they don’t know what the next steps are.”
To address this issue, Ivery has developed several principles to be used to equip and train people on this journey to action including community organizing. “Most of our churches are not using community organizing to advocate for justice,” states Ivery. “They focus on how we get more people rather than how to be a transformative agent in the community by changing laws, rules and policies.” It is Ivery’s view that churches should be more active in working to address issues that foster separation, racism, and classism by working towards a just and inclusive community. “The pursuit of such a vision can fuel our efforts toward a more just society and wholesome version of humanity,” states Ivery.
“I really didn’t have the time and energy to put into it while I was a full-time pastor,” explains Ivery. “…and after retiring [in 2021], I took a year and a half off to renew. So even though we started several years ago, we are basically in a start mode.”
With bylaws in place, Ivery is finishing the business plan and adding more members to the Board of Directors. Ivery plans to add an Associate Board as well. As assessment tool is available to help people gain insight about areas they can focus on to become better change agents for advancing an inclusive community.
The center is a tax exempt, non-profit organization with a mission to help spiritual and community leaders develop skills, strategies, and resources that will enable them to effectively serve as change agents in their community by means of intentional, inclusive, and just community work.
Ivery is gearing up to create a coaching component separate from but related to the non-profit.
“Since I’m newly retired, I found that I was really exhausted…and even though I wanted to launch in [to the non-profit], my body said, ‘No,’” Ivery explains. After an 18 month renewal time he is feeling more energetic and is choosing to focus on the coaching piece because “it’s easier for me to get started.”
“I see coaching as working primarily with individuals and the non-profit working primarily with organizations, however the lines are not always sharply drawn,” states Ivery setting up a separate Community Quest coaching website. “The non-profit and the coaching share the same vision and concepts, but they are not one and the same. Coaching is a personal ministry.”
“If someone wants to be a better ally or advocate for racial justice or be a better person at building an inclusive community,” explains Ivery, “we can help identify what is getting in the way.” For example, Ivery talks about pastors who are led to be prophetic but may wrestle with that calling given the possibility of conflicting interests within the church.
“We all need to have a social vision… what we want the world to look like, just like Jesus,” states Ivery, “and when we have that, then we need to ask, “What role can I play?”
According to Ivery, inclusive coaching and community coaching are not about providing specific answers but about giving spiritual support and guidance using principles Ivery developed over the last ten years to navigate such challenges. “These are principles that have led me on a journey to this intentional inclusive community idea,” explains Ivery.
As a spiritual journey, coaching also includes prayer. “…a lot of things that need to happen need to happen on the spiritual level,” states Ivery. “…on the spiritual level there is more opportunity for God to show us things that need to happen and to untie some things so other things can move forward.”
The goal is to move ahead, “… to a place where we can have a greater perspective on things and a new way of organizing ourselves so we can really focus on what is important…” states Ivery. “ Our truest goal should be how can we be the best human being that we can be… we have to see the humanity in all of us.”
WRITING A BOOK
Ivery is writing his first book entitled, “The Journey Towards an Inclusive Community.” The chapters contain personal experiences throughout Ivery’s life along with the principles of connection he has developed based on life experience and education. (See Author Introduction)
“I think working toward an inclusive community is an intentional act that must be the effort of everyone,” states Ivery. “It is the modern-day expression of Jesus’ idea of the Kingdom of God.”
The book discusses dimensions of community from various standpoints including individual, behavior, social systems, and cultural aspects. Three of the people who have influenced Ivery’s thinking have been Howard Thurman, spirituality; Ken Wilber, Integral Theory; and C. Otto Scharmer, U-theory.
Ivery talks about Jesus’ concept of being a good neighbor in the face of current day segregation practices. “Lack of contact leads to lack of fellowship,” states Ivery introducing his first principle which has to do with “connecting.”
“People need to come together… When we are alienated and we facilitate that, that lack of fellowship leads to misunderstanding.”
In addition to his book, Ivery hopes to develop specific coursework on the topic to be used locally, at universities and in seminaries. “My goal is to use my knowledge, skills, gifts, and graces to foster healing, reconciliation, justice, and wholeness in our world toward the end of the ‘beloved community,’ a global community which knows no racial, religious, gender, or other socially constructed barriers,” sums up Ivery. “The love that Jesus espoused is the dynamic stuff that represents the vision and the means toward the beloved community. Love is not just words that you say but also how you encounter people…”
HOPE FOR 2023
“Although it seems chaotic, it’s also an opportune time,” adds Ivery. “If history tells us anything it is that when there is chaos, there is also an opportunity for something positive and good to happen… and God is doing something all the time.”
Ivery attended places of higher learning in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California earning a Ph.D. in East-West Psychology as well as master’s degrees in psychology, Religion & Ethics and Pastoral Care & Counseling. His career as a professional minister spans more than 40 years during which he served as a pastor, intercultural trainer, drug and alcohol addiction and recovery advocate. Ivery has worked with the differently abled, been involved in ecumenical and interfaith work, and community organizing. Ivery, spouse Donna and two children are an interracial family.
Watch a Zoom interview with Rev. Dr. Ivery here.