When I try to explain who I am, I often find myself quickly describing the communities I exist, work, and play in. Growing up as a pastors kid, I have a history of spending time devoted to Mennonite church community. Long days spent at church meetings, playing made up games in the church parking with other children waiting for parents, years of youth groups, Christian camps, and Mennonite foods. Church community picnics in the park, church community shrimp fishing, church community worship – I could go on.
However, as I near the end of a university degree in mathematics and education and prepare to say farewell to the Conrad Grebel Community I have learned to call home over the past five years, I realize I have an amazing opportunity and priviledge to choose to spend my life somewhere, working for something. In the past, I have simply followed the paths that opened to me which naturally led me from Christian community to Christian community (along with small thoughtful sabbaths of the soul and quick, jaring, life-changing rollercoster moments amongst anarchist, activist, social justice oriented, autonomous, peace-making, potlucking, french, sport and other less identifiable communities). Now, with a degree in education, I have the opportunity and a sense of maturity to begin to grasp the idea of limiting oneself to a specific place to work, laugh and love with specific people for specific purposes and a dream to help change the world.
What people? What purposes? What work? How can we change the world? These questions are slowly filling my soul. I have decided to look at how Christ followers and others have sought to answer these questions in the context of community living in the hope that it gives me some insight and provides me with a path forward. To this end, I am committed to visit at least two communities in the next few months, Jubilee Partners in Georgia, USA and The Iona Community in Scotland.
I first heard about Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian community, from a good friend who volunteered there for several months. The stories he shared about communal living and working with refugees made me want to see the place for myself. The next thing I knew we were organizing a trip down to visit and learn. Now as we prepare to depart I find three ideas and hopes on my mind.
1. This trip will be the beginning of a larger goal and movement towards intentional understanding, living and working in and with community.
2. How living with people who know you, know all of the parts and dimensions of you, is often hard but worth it. It makes you feel accepted and at home.
3. How and why people choose to live in places like Jubilee Partners, communities that are powerfully humble and loving “in scorn of the consequences” (With our Own Eyes: The dramatic story of a Christian response to the wounds of war, racism, and oppression by Don Mosley)
I am excited to meet some of the people I have heard and read about as I begin my search for places and reasons to love, live, and work in humble, strong willed, intentional communities in the hopes of sculpting myself, those I exist around, and the world towards a deeper understanding of love.