--Acts, Chapter 2
*********Not long ago in my Religion and Violence class, we were discussing the concept of paradise, or a "perfect world." One of the students who was presenting suggested that an ideal existence would not be a world in which there was no dissent, but one in which dissent is respected and embraced. Heaven would be rather dull if everyone thought and believed the exact same things.
In theory, this "perfect community" would exist in unity and love, making decisions based upon consensus. When an individual would disagree with the community, that individual would be free to make their disagreement known to the group, not sacrificing his or her values, remaining distinct and apart, but at the same time remaining committed to the end goals of the community.
"This cycle is what is known as the discipline of obedience, or the discipline of stability," our professor, Father Bob, interjected. "It's been practiced in monastic circles for centuries. It's essentially what makes them work as successful faith communities."
I've been thinking about community a lot lately. I mean, even more than usual. About two weeks ago, our plans for Anavah House were abruptly changed. Alyssa and I realized that we would not have the money nor the community support in order to take over and purchase BBRC. Our financial situation has gotten steadily worse over the last couple months, with a majority of our troubles coming from miscommunication with SEMO's student financial services department (but that's another story). Also, with the rising cost of gas, it is been increasingly difficult to afford trips to Kansas City for my seminary classes--about $200 a weekend--every weekend, except for the time I spent in Thailand and Burma--since January. As much as our hearts have been in this, we have learned the valuable lesson that (to modify a familiar cliche) it takes a village to raise a community. Unfortunately, we didn't have much of a village; for now, and perhaps for several years to come, Anavah House is on the back burner.
|Our future home in Liberty|
All this has sort of forced me to redefine what it means to be in community. Before, my understanding of intentional community was restricted to a bunch of people living together under one roof. And let's face it: for those who are familiar with neomonasticism and intentional community, there is a definite stereotypical image that fits these terms.
But community for me is fast becoming defined by the intentional togetherness of its members. I've thought a lot about that word: intentional. As long as we are coming together as Christians--as humans, even--to celebrate our God and our relationships with one another, we are participating in intentional community. The inspiring thing about the stories of the early church in the book of Acts isn't that the first Christians were living together under one roof on an inner city block (which we may very well do--someday), but that they were living together in love and devotion to one another, to the world around them, and ultimately to Jesus.
Our friends have already begun to scheme and conspire (literally, "breathe together"), and we have started simple. Though we live in separate houses on separate blocks, we are planning on meeting for dinner as often as we can, to break bread together and pray and celebrate the love that allows us to devote our time and energy to one another. My good friend Scott Moon once put it this way: "Enemies don't put their feet under the same table together. When you sit down to eat at Christ's table, you know you are among friends."
Alyssa and I are among friends. And we're opening a new chapter in our lives. It is terrifying: stepping into the unknown always is. But we are able to face the future with dignity and with courage, knowing that we have