Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

September 24, 2008

More community discussion

Filed under: christianity — theburts @ 4:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sorry, took a short hiatus again. :)  Not too much new here…we’re still learning and dreaming of community, went to a conference thing by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (who lives at the Rutba House intentional community in North Carolina) this past weekend. Since I haven’t had time to write a blog for some time, I wanted to share this. I wrote it in email form to the group that’s meeting every other week, discussing the book Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. Peace, Daniel.

So I wanted to tell y’all about something that’s been very encouraging for me this week. Feel free to chime in anytime. And sorry, it’s long. :)

It’s easy for one (me) to get overwhelmed by the huge decisions and complexities of moving into community. Even though I’ve lived in an intentional community before, and even though I know of other groups around the country and throughout history, it’s so foreign to the typical way of life in America that it can feel like we’re the first ones to ever try it! The newness in “new monasticism” can feel exciting and revolutionary. And it certainly is, there have been amazing, exciting changes both in my life and countless others through the witness of people like John Perkins and Shane Claiborne, from the Rutba House to Koinonia. But the moment I (we) begin to feel a sense of personality responsibility and heroism for success in creating community, I think pride is dangerously near if not already planted in my (our) efforts.

In the first chapter we’re discussing next week, called “Humble Submission to Christ’s Body, the Church,” the author talks of his history in discovering the “Great Tradition,” the “set of beliefs and practices that have been maintained by Christians throughout the centuries and are still held by the vast majority of Christians.” Then he says, “The impossible burden of having to do it all by myself and the terrible insecurity of never knowing if I was right were both lifted from my shoulders. A new life opened before me. I now saw the church as a gift rather than an accomplishment. With that realization a life-long process of conversion began, slowly changing me from someone who relied entirely on his own efforts into someone who accepted the gifts of grace that are all about us.”

Though the author was referring more to his being separated from the Church and his frustrations with not having anyone (or any church authority) to learn from, I think the same thing can happen in creating community. We are not alone, people! We have many gifts of grace to accept, both from the Church and from our brothers and sisters, and I think it will be too burdensome to try and be community without the encouragement and support from others. I met Harvey Baker at church this past Sunday, a man who’s lived in an intentional farm community for 34 years in south TN. It was funny…I asked him if he’d read “12 Marks of a New Monasticism,” as if this book published in 2005 was also somehow important in the creation of his community in 1973. Right, so he’d never heard of it. :) But he’s been living it for years…woodworker by trade, farmer for food, a 65ish year old lover of God and neighbor (and harmonica).

It’s easy to be scared of failure, or intimidated by the huge responsibility of being a faithful community, especially when we’re new to it and might not have any direct ties to other communities…but we need to remember that just because it’s new to us, it’s not new to the world. I’m not attempting to squelch the excitement of the “irresistible revolution” or “new monasticism.” I’m pumped about it, and am eager to live in community with some or all of you. I think Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne and most of those involved in the new monasticism dialogue have tried to make it very clear that the words “new” and “movement” are dangerously “faddish.” They’ve emphasized that we need to keep close connection with our mother the Church and with our brothers and sisters (present and past) as we try to live faithfully in community. And to me, it was so encouraging to meet this older man, someone to whom intentional community isn’t new, or scary, or radical at all…it’s just life. That’s my story (ie. novel).

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