PAST IS PROLOGUE —1—
Issue 02 — Fall 2011
Photographer: Ryan Watters
Editor’s Preface: Four monumental statues, each carved from a single piece of limestone, greet visitors to the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. where countless irreplaceable historical documents are stored. The most striking of the four is simply titled The Future. Carved by Robert I. Aitken between 1933 and 1935, it depicts a woman sitting in a chair with an open book draped across her lap. She looks up pensively and gazes wistfully into the distance, presumably into the future. Engraved into the base is an inscription from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest: “What is Past is Prologue.” The driving concept of The Common Voice is to encourage dialogue among Christians invested in communities and residentially-based ministries. As a print publication passed hand to hand, The Common Voice overcomes geographical separation spanning the distances between communities. The issue you are now holding attempts a more difficult task, spanning not only distance, but also the gap between the generations. The church today is experiencing a movement of Christians into alternative expressions of communities of faith. The center of its energy is at the leading edge: with the present wave of practitioners, with young adults and young families that are intrepidly sculpting their faith lives within the context of community. These are the people that are drawing things forward and the people for whom we hope to provide a forum for the discussion of ideas and practices. But for the center to be located on the leading edge contravenes the laws of physics. It conjures the image of a nose-diving aircraft.
And yet the center of experiential wisdom is on the trailing edge: with our Christian elders who have lived in community and done ministry there. They hold the breadth of our collective wisdom in their hearts, minds, and narratives. This issue of The Common Voice will introduce you to a handful of communities that were born and that flourished in the same streets, neighborhoods, and cities that are experiencing a present renaissance. This issue will also give you precious insights into their transformation and dissolution. Failure to share this larger story (to which new generations are heir) would lodge the center of experiential wisdom farther from the present in which it belongs. A center that slides toward the trailing edge constricts movement, much like a tractor-pull is bogged by a shifting sled. As members of the household of God and as part of God’s greater Kingdom work, we are well down the road—that is to say, the prologue is past. But when we splay the pages of history before us and gaze toward the horizon, we recognize that the converse is also true: What is Past is Prologue. Read on, and let the centers converge.
Josh Gahr —The Common Voice, Editor That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. Ecclesiastes 3:15
Letters to the Editor
PAST IS PROLOGUE Issue 02 — Fall 2011 Editor Josh Gahr Article Editor Tim Stewart Article/Design Editor Johanna Hosking Pulido Graphic Design graficaelemental.com Artwork Fireseed Anthology Project Cover Russian Baba and Boy by Melinda Watters
The Common Voice: Faith and Life Together is an independent journal. It offers a platform for the emerging theology of Christians living in, learning about, and forming residentially-based Christian communities. The print publication brings people and communities together and generates interest in their work for those unfamiliar with it.
Issue 1: Movement? Summer 2010 Thanks for publishing the booklet about community. First of all, the presentation was very well done and I was grateful to see the pursuit of excellence in the editing and printing. Good job. The content made me think that there are two camps in the movement. One camp seeks to move beyond toleration of other Christians into genuine love and fellowship in order to experience God's love. The strength they receive by doing so will enable them to be a strong witness to Christ's resurrection and His call to the world to radical repentance and faith. Indeed some will even build that into their mission. They will build a city with walls and gates and watchmen on the walls. They will be fruitful. The other camp seeks to build a city without walls. I think they are confused and will not be fruitful. They are imprisoned in two basic errors. First they are trying to win others without the verbal call to repentance that Jesus commands. They seek to be politically correct and avoid the offense of the cross. They offer to God that which He does not require. Their second error is that they believe that God's love is unconditional. It is not. God's love for his people is eternal. Without the faithful and insistent verbal proclamation of the call to repentance and faith in Christ, no Christian community will thrive. Eternal love does receive people as they are, but also transforms them into something lovable and loving. The second camp is worshiping a god that does not exist. The first camp worships God.
Tim Clemens Durango, Colorado
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Add your voice to the conversation. Send us your comments, reactions, and reflections about this or previous editions of The Common Voice.
Photographer: Melinda Watters
Contents Reflections on...
6 › How to Make a Salve Dee Sanchez
Oak Grove Abbey
The Hope Community
The East Side Group
11 › Simplechurchipedia.com Rev. Lindsay Cofield
12 › A Community of Faith or Faith in Action Jim Jones
17 › The Christian Faith-And-Life Community Oral History Project An Interview with Rev. Sam Junkin
24 › The Past as Pilgrimage Christopher Wilkins
28 › From the Bookshelf Reviews by Josh Gahr and Steven Hebbard
30 › Reflections from the Past Various Contributors
33 › Contributors
OAK GROVE ABBEY (2004 - 2008) with Greg Willis
Where was the OAK GROVE ABBEY community? We lived in a large, old house on Enfield near West Lynn, in Austin, TX. We had a very spacious living and dining area, plus a large kitchen with industrial
equipment. We also closed in the garage and turned it into a music and movie room. We also had a porch and a deck that were in constant use outside. Over a three-year period, we had between 7 and 11 people living there at any one time. When were you involved in the OAK GROVE ABBEY community? When we left formal church ministry in South Carolina and moved to Austin, we quickly rejected the standard churchplanting model and wanted to spend our energies disappearing into the fabric of Austin culture. With this “missionary” mindset, it became apparent that embodying the way of life Jesus portrayed was the message, and we began yearning for a space in which we could corral a few like-minded people into living in intentional community together. This strong desire to explore communal living had been stirring since 2002. When a meeting was brokered between me
Let’s say, like many people, you long for a salve to heal what aches. Yet there is no such salve marketed on TV or at your pharmacy. No recipe exists, so you decide to make one yourself. You know that to make your salve you will need a plant of some sort. A salesperson offers you a green plant of some unknown variety, but she can’t tell you what kind it is or whether it bears fruit. She can’t tell you if it needs alkaline or acidic soil, how often to water it, where to plant it, or even guarantee that it will live, much less produce a salve with medicinal value. That, in short, is my experience with the highly desired salve of community—no recipe, no roadmap, no guarantees. To make the healing element takes time, interdependence, and the unpredictable and sometimes reckless Holy Spirit. —6—
Our intentional neighborhood community (INC) spans a 5-block radius in a blue-collar neighborhood near downtown San Antonio and consists of home renters and home owners. Some would say we live in a “bad” neighborhood. And yet, it has been an unpredictable success after more than 20 years. We define success in this way: we have helped stabilize a troubled neighborhood, no one has moved out in anger, and our children grew up to be passably normal and thoughtful adults. But most importantly, we continue to like and seek one another’s company.
and the owners of the house, things fell into place quickly. My family moved in as soon as the remodeling was finished, and we slowly began interviewing and welcoming new housemates thereafter. What churches or ecclesial bodies were important in the foundation of OAK GROVE ABBEY community? The Emerging Church Network
“THAT, IN SHORT, IS MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE HIGHLY DESIRED SALVE OF COMMUNITY—NO RECIPE, NO ROADMAP, NO GUARANTEES. TO MAKE THE HEALING ELEMENT TAKES TIME, INTERDEPENDENCE, AND THE UNPREDICTABLE AND SOMETIMES RECKLESS HOLY SPIRIT.”
was our most active partner, mainly in terms of deep friendships, but also with some financial resources. My former churches—Gateway Baptist in Columbia, SC, The Heights in Dallas, and First Baptist Woodway in Waco—all contributed support. Several annual trips to the Emergent Gathering in New Mexico supplied me with
The INC started as three families living within a few blocks of each other. In a couple of years, there were about seven households. Through the years we birthed children, some of us homeschooled, we cared for our aging parents and buried them, we planted gardens, we saw our children off to college, we struggled with empty-nest realities and learned to like our spouses for new reasons, and we stayed active in a variety of justice and peace work- sometimes with each other, sometimes with others. More recently, many post college single people have moved in and are living collectively in a couple of houses. This has significantly lowered the median age! These young people are a community within a community.
the courage to think, pray, and dream deeply. What was the guiding theology of the community? A combination of mission and discipleship. Living together was to be both our witness to our little worlds and our real-life training, to have our character shaped by the constant reality of others. The basic ethos was a strong belief that we were the Church. This placed as much importance on our daily prayers, meals, chores, jokes around the
While many of us were drawn into this way of living by our Christian convictions, there is nothing obvious that binds us. Some of us are Catholics and Quakers, and yet Presbyterians stand alongside pagans, Mennonites commune with atheists, and Unitarians have truck with Methodists. We range in age (not counting the children in families) from the mid-20s through to the 80s. Our occupations en—7—
table, and entertaining guests as upon specific times of worship.
What was the ministry focus of OAK GROVE ABBEY? Internally, the focus was to
compass masseuses, doctors, lawyers, community workers, stay-at-home moms, retired persons, IT people, teachers, office workers, artists, and retail workers. What we have in common are the values we live.
become more like Jesus through the communal living experience. This easily flowed outward, however, as the Abbey became a meaningful space for all of our friends to experience in various ways. Many other specific “ministry” opportunities were taken on as we saw needs. What was the “lifespan” of OAK GROVE ABBEY? What were some of the reasons that it dissolved? From 2004–2008, for 3-1/2 years. The main reason for
My husband and I moved to the neighborhood in 1989 to live near two couples who had similar lifestyles. They aspired to live downwardly mobile lives, and they were open to collectively owning some of the big things such as cars, washing machines, and lawn mowers. We thought that each household didn’t need to have its own “stuff.” After some time, the salve for what ailed us appeared. We were creating the cure by living our days together, wasting our time together, celebrating birthdays, solstices, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, New Year’s Eve, and Seder. The consumer-driven, individualistic culture had an antidote… it was interdependence and community. We were near when both the big and the small things happened:
dissolution was the abrupt effort by the owners of the property to sell the house. We were “on again off again” for a full year, which destroyed the opportunity to recruit renters. The birth of our second child also radically changed the dynamic for my
We were discouraged the day the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan. We gathered in Quaker-style silence, we listened to the violin music from the PBS Civil War series, we hummed Dona Nobis Pacem (“Grant Us Peace”) and ended with adios abrazos. It didn’t stop the war, but each of us was less alone in this new crazy world.
wife Jolie, and I. And dealing with a newborn while trying to keep the emotions of the group
When Gary died, we met at his house and finished off his bottles of Scotch and told his stories.
stable during the “for sale” season was extremely difficult. What enduring lessons did you take from your time with OAK GROVE ABBEY? It was often surprisingly beautiful. I think the boldness of the effort and the necessity of bear-
When Spike died, Jack and others (including the kids) spent 2 or 3 days digging the grave at the convent graveyard. Don and I worked on the funeral service and after the funeral mass, all Spike’s friends filled the grave in with dirt. Late that first night we returned with a 6-pack of Shiner to “tuck him in” by singing goodnight, and we ended up drinking five of the Shiners and drenching his grave with the last one.
ing each other’s burdens daily was something that will live with me forever. I deeply miss the
When Bill died, we planted a tree in his front yard and buried some of his ashes in the earth.
rhythm of morning prayers and the overall spirit of camaraderie that took place.
When Cypress was born, we took puffy tacos just as she was being disconnected from her mother.
On the more challenging side, I learned a great deal about personal boundaries—how much of other people’s “stuff” I could
We’ve gathered to sing las mañanitas as our children leave for college, or we gather to bless them as they leave for their new lives.
endure. And I learned that sincerity and faith don’t guarantee certain kinds of success. That was probably the most painful
We gathered for a “good-bye boobie” party before a mastectomy, and again for a “hello boobie” party after the breast reconstruction. In short, my husband and I raised our children in this village, and we’ll get old in this village.
lesson for me. Based on your experiences, what value does life in community have for spiritual formation and discipleship? It’s intense! There are infinite ways God can reach us and teach us, but in my personal experience living in a community
I don’t think you can make community happen, it is a gift given collectively. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of interdependence. I have come to the conclusion that interdependence is the next level of development for a mature individual and for our nation. We naturally go from dependence to independence. But now, for our sanity and for our future, we must go from independence to interdependence.
"I HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT INTERDEPENDENCE IS THE NEXT LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT FOR A MATURE INDIVIDUAL AND FOR OUR NATION. WE NATURALLY GO FROM DEPENDENCE TO INDEPENDENCE. BUT NOW, FOR OUR SANITY AND FOR OUR FUTURE, WE MUST GO FROM INDEPENDENCE TO INTERDEPENDENCE."
When I was born, I needed someone to care for me, to protect me. Analogously, our country, back when it was a colony, needed the protection of the mightier England to “take care” of and nurture it. Eventually, as a teenager, I demanded my independence, which is a good and normal need. Likewise, America too eventually declared her independence as a nation—she wanted to stand alone and take care of herself. Now as an older adult, I see the next developmental step is interdependence, both for a —9—
with shared spiritual aspirations is like nothing else. Dealing with others so frequently is a wonderful and awful mirror, which exposes so much truth about your own character and nature. And worshipping, praying, eating, and especially partaking of Communion with those who have traveled so intently with you is indescribably profound. Are there any stories, anecdotes, or further information you would like to share? The things that still stick out in my memory of the Oak Grove Abbey are Holy Week and the parties. For 3–4 years in a row we had something special planned every night of Holy Week, culminating with a Maundy Thursday foot washing, a reverent Good Friday liturgy, and a very celebratory Easter service. These were clearly among the most beautiful
moments of our woven-together lives, moments that continue to give us meaning even now. And there were a handful of grand parties that still make me
person and for a nation. America cannot live as if there is an “us” and a “them” or as if the impact of our lifestyle stops at our national border. Community is the place for this shift in thinking and in lifestyle. In this microcosm, I can live as if I am part of a whole, as if my choices in consumption, lifestyle, votes, and faith expression have an immediate and lasting impact.
smile. When everyone in the house invites their people, and all the guests we had met over time gather in one occasion to share homebrew and the story of a beloved saint and/or an artist’s music, the rightness and purity of all our efforts were never more fully realized. Truly magical, in the most holy sense.
So community is a salve that heals; it heals the individual because you are not alone. It heals the culture because you live as if people are more important than things. It heals the environment because we begin to live as part of a whole. And most important it heals our soul because we sincerely experience the Body of Christ. Community is rare in our culture because it is so costly—it takes so much time! It takes your life. And like all love commitments, there are no guarantees and no assurances that what you are doing will yield the results you want. It is a terrible risk for one’s heart to take.
New Beginnings by Amanda Hedges.
Share your experiences in Christian community or residential ministry with the Past is Prologue project at
So how do you make this salve that heals? All you can do is create an environment where it might happen. You invite others who value interdependence to move into the same neighborhood and onto the same block, and then you begin spending (wasting!) your life together. Eventually, the reckless Holy Spirit fills in the spaces around you and others. And after a few years of messy, unpredictable LIFE, you’ll know if it worked! — 10 —
Your stories, pics, examples & videos of simple Christ-following groups Lindsay Cofield Becoming Christ’s Hands, His Heart, His Voice, and His Compassion among an overlooked group of friends is a simple, elemental, and powerful way to live. Groups of Christ-followers everywhere are discovering the freedom and infectious influence of focusing together on the most basic rhythms of the Body of Christ that is the Church. The simplechurchipedia website exists to freely encourage such communities and to interconnect their stories, examples, and effective ideas with one another. God’s Spirit often uses the insight or lifestyle of a friend to spark a transformative fire in our own lives. So it is with the persons from 11 countries (thus far!) who are already starting to “hear & share” with each other through this no-strings-attached site. Blog posts, photos, articles, videos, and ideas can be posted easily for immediate viewing by others in Texas, the rest of the USA, Brazil, Russia, Canada, the U.K., Indonesia, Spain, Malaysia, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and anywhere the World Wide Web extends, for purposes of viewing, discussing with others, and perhaps being reshaped for the spiritual health of their own Christ-Community.
The posts tend to be from grassroots practitioners in all kinds of where-you-livelife settings. These are places like homes, apartments, marketplaces, parks, backyards… one group of daylaborers gathers under a tree…you get the idea! Simplechurchipedia seeks to affirm and multiply these vibrant little on-site churches in the spirit of Romans 16:3-5 …“greet Prisca and Aquila…and the church that is in their house”. Just imagine how this couple, kicked out of Italy, making tents, living in a 1st Century size home, with little or no printed materials, props, instruments, or organization, still managed to gather a small church that we continue reading about 2000 years later. There is great power to touch lives through a group of Christ-followers who are living with authentic simplicity in any microculture, or any affinity group, gathering in any place and at any time.
— 11 —
Learning from the Cooperative Movement Jim Jones
Since the Great Depression, young Christians have tended toward either of two paths as they seek to improve their world. The The Catholic Worker House in San Antonio path of one group is to develop communities of faith, whereas the path of the other group leads to the development of communities that serve the ideals of their faith. Cooperative group housing has been a tool for people of faith to use in achieving both ends.
Today, there are about 10,000 young people in group housing cooperatives "WHILE SOME CHRISTIANS FOCUS around the United States ON THE BENEFITS OF PERSONAL and Canada, and although GROWTH THROUGH COMMUNITY, few of the current memOTHERS LOOK TO COOPERATIVES bers know the history of the AS A TOOL TO EXTEND CONTROL TO group housing tradition, THOSE WHO HAVE LITTLE OR NONE." many of these cooperatives have their roots in Christianity. This article focuses on student cooperatives because they are now into which any kind of wine may be poured.” the largest and best known of these group ef- For most people, the desired “wine” is one forts, but there have always been people of of three motivations for living in communiall ages and walks of life who have lived in ty: the “three C’s” of community, cost, and such groups. Indeed, Catholic monasteries control. While some Christians focus on the demonstrate a two-thousand-year track re- benefits of personal growth through comcord of successful group housing. munity, others look to cooperatives as a tool to extend control to those who have little or To a great extent, as a philosopher once none. And for many, community living ofsaid, “a cooperative is like an empty bottle, fers an opportunity for lower living costs. — 12 —
One example of a Christian cooperative that focuses on community is Living Rock (formerly Bethel Manor Christian Cooperative) founded in 1941 in the vicinity of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. This cozy house on Grand River Avenue is a place of community for ten university students. Their self-description in the Directory of Communities explains their purpose and approach:
THE HOPE COMMUNITY with Joe Gatlin
How did you become involved in the HOPE
We are a community of Christian collegeage men who live near the campus of Michigan State University. Our goal as a community is to encourage one another to spiritual growth, then to send spiritually mature members out of our small community into the regular world to allow God to use them as “reapers” or gatherers of the non-Christian harvest into God's kingdom. Daily life here for most might include reading the Bible, going to class, studying for school, participating in house or campus spiritual activities, and eating dinners and cooking them together, as well as cleaning and maintaining the house together. Occasionally we meet for house decisions, and we meet weekly for all-house prayer, Bible teaching, and worshiping God. Another example is the Fairway Cooperative at Purdue University, founded in 1957 and currently serving as home community for 54 men. Two similar cooperatives serve the University of Illinois student population; Koinonia there is home to 37 men, and Stratford is home to 38 women. Such groups exist on many college campuses, though they are relatively insulated from other cooperative communities in other cities. These groups typically see their community as an opportunity for spiritual growth and mutual support. Other Christians over the years, however, have sought to use cooperatives as a way to address the problems of society at large. During the Great Depression, the Wesley Foundation of the Methodist Church developed an entire study series focusing on cooperatives. — 13 —
COMMUNITY? My wife, Nancy, and I were part of another communal household that disbanded in 1993. We had lived in communal households for about 15 years prior to Hope Community (HC). At the time of its founding in 1993, Hope Community was part of Reconcilers Fellowship, a church with a great deal of shared life in the same neighborhood. Reba Place Fellowship and Shalom Mission Communities provided some guidance in the formation of HC. It began as two families in 1993—six individuals, counting children—that shared the house at 17th and Morrow, in Waco, TX.
The 1996 publication Fire, Salt, and Peace by David Janzen featured the Hope Community.
What was the ethos/guiding theology of the community? Our theology was essentially Anabaptist. Reconcilers Fellowship disbanded shortly after the founding of Hope Community. We opened our home to neighbors for worship, and Hope Fellowship was soon born as a worshipping, bilingual (Spanish/ English), community. Engagement with Shalom Mission Communities and Mennonite bodies soon came. The primary ministry focus became the birth of Hope Fellowship. What were the rhythms of life in HOPE COMMUNITY? We worshipped with Hope Fellowship, originally on Sunday night, eventually on Sunday morning. We shared meals probably 7–8 times a week. We also shared work on the house and spent time in discernment on vocational and financial issues.
In Ann Arbor, the most important root of the student housing cooperatives began in 1937, when a student group related to the Church of Christ was picketing the construction of a luxurious dormitory for graduate students. One of the picketers was heard to say, “Why are we just picketing? Why don’t we actually do something to help people, like starting a cooperative?” The group then started a cooperative in the attic of one Reverend Pickerell, and out of that group grew nearly all of Ann Arbor co-ops, which are today home to 550 students in 17 different locations. Perhaps the most important contribution by a Christian to the history of student cooperatives is not even American. Rather, he was a Japanese Christian minister named Toyohiko Kagawa, a pacifist living in the slums of Tokyo in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. He spoke out against World War II and in favor of labor unions and cooperatives. He wrote about his concept of cooperative economics in terms of “Brotherhood Economics” and as a way for the average person to gain place in the world. He is regarded as the father of the consumer cooperatives and university co-ops in Japan, and he had an enormous impact on North America as well. In fact, the first national group promoting student co-ops grew out of a conference at which he spoke in Indianapolis in 1936: a conference co-sponsored by the Student Christian Movement and the Cooperative League of the USA.
What was the “lifespan” of HOPE COMMUNITY? Hope Community never grew larger than two families sharing the same house. One of the two founding families moved out in 1995. The third family who moved in in 1995 moved out in 2000, feeling the need for more space. Hope Fellowship by that time had become the focus of community life and efforts.
Japanese minister and proponent of cooperative economics, Toyohiko Kagawa.
— 14 —
There’s no essential reason why Christians must choose only one of these approaches. Strong communities of faith may be developed that benefit the residents and also work for social change and a better world. Christians may even benefit by simply observing the successes of other faith groups.
"CHRISTIAN COOPERATIVES FOCUSING EXCLUSIVELY ON THEIR INTERNAL COMMUNITY CAN BECOME INDRAWN AND ISOLATED, AND COOPERATIVES FOUNDED BY CHRISTIANS PURELY IN THE NAME OF SOCIAL CHANGE CAN ALL TOO EASILY LOSE TOUCH WITH THEIR SPIRITUAL ROOTS, FOCUSING INSTEAD ON ECONOMICAL LIVING AND THE DAILY GRIND."
A new group, for example, has recently started which may have a high enough profile to serve as a model for others. In Boston, the Lucy Stone Cooperative is a project begun last year by a Unitarian group. Its members are young nonstudents who use the student cooperative model and keep ties with other housing cooperatives in the city and around the country. It’s interesting to compare and contrast its own mission statement with Living Rock’s: The Lucy Stone Cooperative is an intentional community living the values and tradition of Unitarian Universalism through cooperative home ownership. We seek to grow a diverse community centered in justice. Through shared resources and faithful action, we align our daily lives with our core values of sustainability, spiritual practice, and social change. Many of the Christian cooperatives focusing exclusively on their internal community can become indrawn and isolated. Cooperatives founded by Christians purely in the name of social change can all too easily lose touch with their spiritual roots, focusing instead on economical living and the daily grind. Hopefully, faith groups in general and Christians in particular can find a middle ground from which to operate, or as these young members of Lucy Stone say, “Our goal is not to withdraw from the world, but to engage more fully with it.” — 15 —
The Hope Community House in Waco, Texas
What value do communities like HOPE COMMUNITY have for the Church? Hope Community was a local expression of church. For other churches, experiences like Hope Community can be clarifying as to the vision and purpose of church and hopefully encouraging.
Read the full text of this and other transcripts on commonvoicemag.org
Share your experiences in Christian community or residential ministry with the Past is Prologue project at
Bethel by Shawn Clark.
Illustrator: Audrey Lopata
Winter — 16 —
Interview with Rev. Sam Junkin
Editor’s Preface: The CFLC was a unique and important institution in the personal, civic, and spiritual formation of over one thousand young men and women in Austin from 1952–1964. Through the lives and work of its members in subsequent decades, it has become recognized as an important institutional landmark for Austin, for the University of Texas, and for the church. The aim of the CFLC Oral History Project is to collect the history of the CFLC as told through the voice of the people who lived it, participated in it, and witnessed it. This interview represents one of those voices: the Rev. Sam Junkin, a charter member of the CFLC, 1952– 1954. He later attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and served as an ordained Presbyterian pastor for 14 years. He became president of Schreiner University in 1971 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1996.
GAHR (G): How did you hear about the CFLC? JUNKIN (J): I am a lifelong Presbyterian. I went to what was then called Schreiner Institute, which was a two-year college. After that, I transferred to the University of Texas. My family was such that participation in the church wasn’t optional. We just did it. That was the way we grew up. Family led us in that direction. So I became a part of the campus ministry at the University Presbyterian in Austin. My junior year in college, my grandmother who lived in Austin invited my roommate and me to have supper with her one night. And she invited Jack Lewis to be there. Jack had been campus minister at the University of Texas and he had been off to the Iona Community in Scotland for some study for a year. It was after he came back that she had known him as campus minister, and so she invited him to have dinner that night. My roommate and I were there, and he got to talking that night about his dream: his goal of establishing what would later become called the Christian Faith and Life Community (CFLC). And to a great extent, it was based on what he had learned at the Iona Community – about a disciplined life
— 17 —
MESSIAH MANSION (ca. 1970 - 1990) with Rev. Tom Ray
What was the MESSIAH MANSION community? It was a discipleship house for young men in Hill Country Faith Ministries in San Marcos, TX. It also housed the church offices
where there was not only study, that is intellectual study and worship, but also physical labor. The old abbey at Iona was being rebuilt and people were contributing their labor, and that’s a part of the history of the Rev. Jack Lewis, 1954. CFLC. That night he asked my roommate and me if we would like to be a part of the first run of the CFL Community. He was going to start it the next September and we both opted to do that.
and Bible College. The guys who lived there were somewhat evenly divided between students at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) and the Bible College, and those who worked jobs. Shared housing, discipleship, relationships, and the pursuit of Jesus were the basic characteristics of the Mansion. The Mansion was on San Antonio St. and could hold about 18 young men. It was a two-story Victorian house with wraparound porches on the bottom and top floors. It had previously been a funeral home and had an old elevator in it to raise and lower coffins between floors. When were you involved in the MESSIAH MANSION community? I lived there between 1978 and 1980—about two and a half years. I moved in because I was involved in Hill Country Faith Ministries and needed a place to live.
G: Was there something about that conversation with Jack Lewis that made this an appealing option for you? J: We were both active in the Westminster Fellowship, and we took the church membership pretty seriously. Actually I sang in the University Presbyterian Church choir three years, so I was pretty active. But Jack was a marine and a very manly guy—kind of a tall, very lanky person—but one to whom we both literally and figuratively looked up. And you could not help but somewhat be mesmerized by him as he told his story about how such a community might be so helpful in the develop"HIS GOAL WAS NOT ment of a learned laity. And TO GET PEOPLE TO that was his goal. His goal GO TO SEMINARY. was not to get people to go HIS GOAL WAS TO to seminary. His goal was ENABLE PEOPLE WHO to enable people who were WERE GOING TO going to be engineers and BE ENGINEERS AND doctors, lawyers, and teachDOCTORS, LAWYERS, ers to be informed about AND TEACHERS their faith. And to live out TO BE INFORMED that faith on some sort of ABOUT THEIR FAITH. deep spiritual level. His goal AND TO LIVE OUT was to create a cadre of lay THAT FAITH ON people who could articulate SOME SORT OF DEEP their faith, who could tell SPIRITUAL LEVEL." you “why”, who had studied deeply, and who had read in some depth the learned fathers and mothers of the faith. He was very serious about trying to help people understand what it meant to be aware of the name of Jesus. — 18 —
G: Did you receive any preparation before you embarked on this journey of community? J: No. We were all 40—or 48 of us—in that little rooming house. We were all starting at the same time, and so we were all starting at the same place. The trick was that in terms of faith journey, we were all at different places also. We all had to be willing to recognize that we were not all in exactly the same place in terms of what it meant to be a disciple. We learned to listen to each other and be respectful of each other. There were Methodist and Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Catholics. It was a very diverse group. All men, of course, in that first year. The women got their branch started the next year.
What was life together like at the MESSIAH MANSION? We ate breakfast together in the early morning. The cooking was a shared chore between the guys. I remember the “Mansion Mush” (oatmeal). It was common fare in the mornings along with scrambled eggs. We hired someone to cook dinner and shop for us. We had weekly “Mansion meetings” which was our time reserved for devotion, worship, and the Mansion business meeting. We would try to do retreats together to foster relationships—usually camping at some state park. What was the “lifespan” of MESSIAH MANSION? The Mansion dissolved because the church built a new building and moved the offices and Bible College to the new facility and no longer needed to rent the house on San Antonio Street. How did your time at the MANSION shape you?
CFLC 1952, Men's Branch.
Life in the Mansion was truly a special chapter in my life and
G: What was the energy level that first semester? J: The energy level was pretty high because we had agreed to certain disciplines. We would eat meals during the week together. We would arise a bit early, like 6:30 in the morning, and various disciplines were tried at different times. It was not something that was set in concrete… “this is the way it’s always done.” But we would arise and read the papers, read Scripture, have prayers, discussions, and then have breakfast. And then the idea was that if you were a Bachelor of Arts major or bachelor of engineering or science, you would go do your thing. If you were an athlete you went and participated in the athletics program. If you were a Greek or part of some other organization, you participated in all those things and then came back together for some com— 19 —
carries many fond memories!
Messiah Mansion housemates in a throwback picture.
Share your experiences in Christian community or residential ministry with the Past is Prologue project at
THE EAST SIDE GROUP with Duncan Charlton
What was the genesis of EAST SIDE GROUP (ESG) community? There were two initiators, Corky Peavy and Rich Pruiksma, who were living at the Catholic Worker House. Each posted a small want ad in Sojourners magazine. One wanted to gather Christians to do service for the community, and the other wanted to create an intentional Christian community. They met and said, “Well, why don’t we pull together?” The members were of various Christian backgrounds—Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, and Evangelical—and typically belonged to different church communities in addition to ESG. Some churches attracted larger proportions of ESG members. Some went to the Friends Meeting house. In the early years, St. David’s Episcopal church attracted several ESG families, and later many of these families found themselves at St. George’s Episcopal.
mon meals. Often there would be someone brought in from Austin Seminary or folks like Carlyle Marney from First Baptist Church. They might lecture on a particular subject. When you agreed to participate in the CFLC, you agreed to do those things, and I would say—pretty well—people accepted that discipline. G: Was it common for people to spend two years in the community? J: Yes. I have the feeling that freshman—first year students—were not encouraged. In other words, get acquainted with the university, get acquainted with your major, and then later there’s another option that you might want to consider.
"THE IDEA WAS THAT IF YOU WERE A BACHELOR OF ARTS MAJOR OR BACHELOR OF ENGINEERING OR SCIENCE, YOU WOULD GO DO YOUR THING. IF YOU WERE AN ATHLETE YOU WENT AND PARTICIPATED IN THE ATHLETICS PROGRAM. IF YOU WERE A GREEK OR PART OF SOME OTHER ORGANIZATION, YOU PARTICIPATED IN ALL THOSE THINGS AND THEN CAME BACK TOGETHER FOR SOME COMMON MEALS."
G: What were the facilities like at the CFLC? J: 2505 Rio Grande was the address, and it was a kind of an old apartment house. It had two stories and was kind of shaped like a squared off "U." It housed 48 people. And so you had 24 on each side on two stories. It was connected by one common meeting room which also had a kitchen attached to it. G: Did you meet to worship together? J: Sure. This was an emphasis, and it was not to be taken lightly. But on the same token, you recognized that there were many different denominational families involved with worship with differing worship styles. Those were all respected. But there were certainly times for worship, singing, prayers, Scripture reading. — 20 —
G: How did the CFLC study together? J: As I remember, mostly in groups. We were doing readings individually that we could take to our room and read. And then there were teachers who were facilitating discussions. Jack was one of those. But he had wrapped around him a considerable group of lay people who supported him. And then there were also people from both the seminaries in Austin. Pastors of some of the larger churches would participate and seemed to enjoy doing it. There were quite a few people who saw his vision and who participated in making it happen. G: Do you recall any of the other primary teachers or staff people? J: I mentioned Dr. Carlyle Marney, who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Austin for quite a few years. He is deceased now, but an immensely powerful guy. Another man was at University Baptist Church, Blake Smith, for many years and was also quite a leader and speaker and teacher. There were some other people, a man named Ed Hinesohn, was at the University Methodist Church at that point. A man that everybody called “Block” Smith was the head of the YMCA and was also active at the time. Jim McCord from Austin Seminary had been a long time friend of Jack Lewis and actually had been in Scotland at the same time. He was probably the strongest right hand that Jack had. And Jim went on to be the president of Princeton Seminary for many years. — 21 —
Where was the EAST SIDE GROUP community? There was no one physical location. In the early years we met every Friday night, typically at a member’s house, rotating locations. I recall we tried to come up with a name. Since the majority of members lived on the east side of I-35, we ended up calling it the East Side Group. There were probably five or six families and four or five single members at the very beginning. Members’ ages ranged from 22 to 32 at this point, and there were only one or two children. There was a segment of ESG that worked harder to create a physical community. This segment was further subdivided into those who wanted that physical proximity in the near term and were willing to rent property, and those who were looking into the long term, preferring to buy real estate. Those who wanted it now participated in the “six houses” (eventually eight 600-squarefoot houses all in the same block) that were located just to the east of Disch-Falk Field at UT. This lasted until the properties were sold and the houses moved to another location. Most of the people in this group went on to other things and reduced their level of involvement in ESG. Six families bought land east of Austin in Webberville and cre-
ated the Easterrain community in 1984. This group has always made their community decisions by consensus and waited until 2010 to subdivide the property and create a corporation that has different bylaws where majority vote has a more prominent role. Two other communities were linked to ESG at this time: Mishpacha (now defunct) and Poiema, located on rural property close to Easterrain.
CFLC 1955, Women's Branch.
What was the ministry focus of EAST SIDE GROUP? How did it change over time? In early years the focus was assisting refugees from Central American conflicts who were on death lists in their home countries and who hoped to find asylum in Canada. Not all members were equally involved—some traveled to the U.S. –Mexico border and to Canada and got intimately involved in the details, whereas many of us assisted in more of a “here at home” maintenance role. The nuclear freeze movement was active in the early 1980s, and some of us went to protests and wrote to our elected
G: You mentioned Iona Community in Scotland. Was Iona an exemplar that the community was looking towards? J: In terms of the discipline to which people commit themselves when they become members of the Iona Community, yes. The CFLC recognized some of the disciplines that will be expected of you and asked, “Do you commit yourself to them?” Without a doubt, it was a very important influence. G: Other people have said that there was a healthy degree of questioning of the faith and where one stands. J: There was no attempt to indoctrinate, to say, “You are a Christian—this is what you must believe.” We were reading people like Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, and so forth. We were reading pretty heavy-duty stuff. They were raising questions. To believe that it was healthy to question, that it was okay to question probably made some parents uneasy! I don’t know what my parents actually felt about my participation in the community, but they encouraged me to do it. G: What led to the dissolution of the CFLC? J: Starting about ’55 or ’56, the community began to become something a little bit different from what those of us early ones had experienced. A professor from SMU named Joe Mathews came to be a part of the staff, and eventually Joe and Jack came to a parting of the ways. It was in the early ’60s that Jack went to Cornell and became the head of cam— 22 —
pus ministries there and spent the rest of his life there. Joe then moved the idea, in effect, to Chicago, and the CFLC ceased to be a part of the life of the University of Texas. G: And what did you do after the community? J: I was a pastor for 14 years in two different churches. And then in 1971 I returned to Schreiner. And the rest of my career was spent there, as the president. G: Was the community experience or the model ever compelling for you as president of Schreiner? J: Actually I thought about it some. But Schreiner was a high school and two-year college established as a male—an all-male—school with a military program. It was established with some help from a man named Schreiner by the Presbyterian Church. During the time that I was at Schreiner, there were all kinds of changes. The military was suspended. The high school then was phased out. Women were admitted as students and living on campus. And then finally it became a four-year college. So in my time there, I thought at times—I wonder if you took one of the dorms and kind of tried to replicate that. But there was just so much else CFLC Mansion. going on and not the energy with a limited number of gifts. So, yes I thought of it. No, we didn’t do it. G: Is there anything else you might like to share? J: Only one thing. I would make a testimony which is that, without any doubt, it was one of the most formative influences on my life. And I just kind of happened into it. Jack’s emphasis on creating articulate laymen made all kinds of sense to me. The community was very much a positive formative influence. It gave me a vision of the church that is very wide and welcoming rather than narrow and parochial. It gave me some ability to get into dialogue with Scripture. It was very, very powerful and very meaningful for me. So I give thanks for it. — 23 —
officials, urging a move to stand down from the belligerent posturing by the U.S. government. But as members became absorbed with their own “nuclear” families, activities shifted more to one-day projects. A given meeting might be spent writing letters to foreign or U.S. officials urging clemency and justice and requesting proper execution of that country's laws. Most members seem to have chosen careers in education, health, or public safety (firefighters and EMS—no police officers). One member operates a non-profit refugee assistance center, and her husband is an attorney who chose to get involved in death-penalty cases in hope of eventually pressuring the state to drop the death penalty. Another member (no longer in the Austin area) married another member and went to medical school; they adopted three kids (all siblings) and serve a poor community in another state. Several members are active in the Sister City project and ramrod fundraising events for this. Some members underwent crises of faith with varying results—to another type of faith or back to some form of Christianity, or more of a shift in which the person appreciates and applies values from another faith.
The past holds starting places. The past has been a starting place for my own story of ongoing transformation. My story begins in my first week in New York in August 2009. Before my eyes was a small white sign with these words painted in blue: Mary House Catholic Worker. I had stumbled upon the original Catholic Worker house. Little did I realize at that time that one of my sweetest memories was unfolding.
The Mary House Catholic Worker in New York City.
I later learned that Mary House was a former music school in the East Village that was sold to the Catholic Worker in the early sixties. Its simple white sign was striking when juxtaposed with the flashing neon signs of the nearby bars and restaurants along the rest of the block. I was invited inside that house without question, offered
beans and rice (a standard meal there), coffee, and a bread roll. I ate gratefully. Jane, the resident matriarch, walked up to me slowly. Her broken glasses hung around her neck, tied with twine. She wore a long bluish-gray dress that was smeared with stains from the day’s many activities. She held her glasses up to her eyes and said that the oldest resident in
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the house, Frank, living in the top floor of the house, needed to take his medicine. Her question confronted me with a jolt: "Would you go up and give it to him?"
"EMMANUEL MOUNIER SAYS IN HIS BOOK PERSONALISM: '…THE PERSON IS ONLY CONTINUALLY GROWING IN SO FAR AS HE IS CONTINUALLY PURIFYING HIMSELF FROM THE INDIVIDUAL WITHIN HIM. HE CANNOT DO THIS BY FORCE OF SELFATTENTION, BUT ON THE CONTRARY BY MAKING HIMSELF AVAILABLE AND THEREBY MORE TRANSPARENT TO HIMSELF AND TO OTHERS.' ”
Let me step back a moment and say that up until Jane’s question, my idea of pilgrimage was about my personal betterment— whether in terms of my career or my life goals. It had nothing to do with the experience of being in different cultural settings or with different people. I believe that my draw toward pilgrimage has been inherently good. After all, it was prompted by a sincere desire for the betterment of my own soul. However, my pilgrimage was, like most human ventures, misguided at first. Even with my move to Austin, TX, to live in community at the Kenilworth house, I was (at best) only tentatively invested in the life and betterment of my fellow residents. I sincerely desired to live in community, but my focus was still inward. Much of my time in the Kenilworth community and previously in a homeless ministry, “Seeds of Change,” was a critical rebellion against the extreme materialism in our culture. If the materialism was extreme, our response to it was equally extreme: a seeking out of radical alternatives to materialism and its effects. I was intrigued by the underlying current of extreme autonomy that led to the materialism that became the center of much of our critical focus. Emmanuel Mounier says in his book Personalism: “…the person is only continually growing in so far as he is continually purifying himself from the individual within him. He cannot do this by force of self-attention, but on the contrary by making himself available and thereby more transparent to himself and to others.” — 25 —
What were the rhythms of life in EAST SIDE GROUP? How did these rhythms change or evolve over time? We met every Friday night for many years—perhaps for the first ten years or so—and as members’ energies were demanded elsewhere, the frequency eventually dropped to once a month. Children arrived in waves. Every two years we seemed to get another four or five children born in a short period, and this had an impact on how much energy ESG members had for service projects. We began relying more on individual members who had a pet project and would periodically ask members for help. The women in the group are often the initiators. There do not seem to be any “alpha” males among this group, pushing or cajoling to get their way. Perhaps this is critical to the successful cooperative nature of the group. Somehow the Spirit moves us to continue in fellowship, and we are able to maintain this without significant strain. What enduring lessons did you take from your time with EAST SIDE GROUP? I learned what consensus truly is. I learned that community falls apart when one cannot accept another’s behavior. This sounds simple, but it
is not the common way of treating one’s neighbor in our culture. Another way to put it is that one must sometimes accept a neighbor or ESG member with the tolerance offered to an eccentric aunt, rather than rejecting them. Developing realistic expectations of the nature of a group is critical to the group’s success. When a member knows what the limits of the group are, he or she is less likely to be disappointed in how the group progresses. It is also important to allow for changes in interests and energy levels. Based on your experiences, what value does life in community have for spiritual formation and discipleship? Inward: One must learn how to give and take responsibly, with an eye towards how one’s actions and words affect others. Success at this can carry over into better understanding of one’s spouse, and vice versa. Being part of a group with shared values gives one the confidence to question values and beliefs and may offer the impetus
And so, as Jane approached me with some applesauce, I felt oddly selfconscious and transparent. She mixed in Frank’s medicine with her finger, awaiting my response. I had mentioned that Dorothy Day was a huge influence on my life, and Jane told me that Dorothy Day had died in the room Frank was in. I made a decision. I took the applesauce and walked upstairs. The smell of the place was like old houses I had been in, and it aroused in me many emotions. The walls bore the weight of the histories of many people like me, who came into that place as weary pilgrims. It was earthy too, like an aged wood. I thought of a fallen log in the forest, partly decomposed. The smell stayed with me as I made my way to the top floor, anxious about what was behind the door I was soon to step through. As I walked that hallway down to Frank’s room, the difference between travel and pilgrimage began to unfurl for me. My travels were never for the purpose of discovering the other person, seeing him as he truly is and not wanting to use him simply as a “means” in my own struggle for salvation in this life. I started realizing that I had never truly made myself available in friendship and love to my friends past and present. I knew this, and it produced a gaping anxiety within my soul. I slowly opened the door. There lying on the bed was an emaciated old man, a heart monitor quietly beeping on the bedside table next to him. He was sleeping. From the doorway I observed the room. The walls were off-white, faded from the passage of time. There were hundreds of books everywhere. Some were on bookshelves that encompassed the entire wall, but most of them were in stacks around the floor. Threadbare furniture was covered with clippings of news articles and theatre news. Frank suddenly opened one eye and saw me. He amicably welcomed me in. I went to him quickly, helped him sit up in bed, and then sat down on the bed next to him. We talked for a while. Toward the end of our conversation, he looked at a single picture frame on the far wall and asked me to bring it over to him. I could tell from the first few lines that it was a letter from the Vatican addressed to Dorothy Day. The date was October 3, 1980. — 26 —
She died on November 29, 1980. I handed him the letter, and as he took it he said that the letter was from Pope John Paul II. It was to thank her for “her years of practicing the works of mercy and charity to those who are in dire need.” I thought of Sister Dorothy and Peter Maurin. I contemplated their lives and how the church honors them for their service. I wondered. Frank wouldn’t be where he was without Dorothy. But where would Dorothy have been without Frank? The complex question stayed with me. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, a male member of the community "THAT IS THE THING was picked to carry Frank WITH COMMUNITY— down the four flights of AT LEAST, WHAT GOD stairs for Mass. It was a sight HAS TAUGHT ME IN to see him being carried MY TRAVELS. WE ARE down the flights of stairs into ALWAYS MEETING the meeting room. Everyone DOROTHYS, PETERS, stood on his arrival, as if welAND ST. FRANCISES. coming a king to his rightful THROUGH IT ALL, WE place. That is the thing with BEGIN TO SEE THE community—at least, what CHRIST IN OTHERS." God has taught me in my travels. We are always meeting Dorothys, Peters, and St. Francises. Through it all, we begin to see the Christ in others. Through the redemptive struggle that happens when we do life side-by-side with deliberateness and intentionality. I sincerely believe that just in the way that my story is incomplete without their role, these living saints can’t fully tell the story of their lives without mentioning, however briefly, the part I played.
The past has been a starting place for my transformation into this new reality. It was there that I learned about sacrifice and availability. Through much sacrificial love from the community that surrounds me, and has surrounded me, I have begun to discover my own capacity to be a vessel for the Spirit of grace. Those will be the lessons I take into the future when I begin to tell the stories of my past. — 27 —
to develop those beliefs and values and synthesize new understandings. I know our children realize that they grew up in unusual and special circumstances, and they value how they were raised, and some have expressed interest in forming or joining their own supportive community. Psychological studies showed long ago that children raised by extended families (which we hoped to mimic to some degree) tend to be more secure than those raised in the relative isolation of a nuclear family, and we hoped that our children would benefit from having surrogate close relatives. Outward: One often needs the example and demands of others to spur one to action. Staying informed about what needs to be done is only the first step. Children learn by watching their parents in action—if parents get involved, the children are better informed about world events and might take a greater interest in putting effort into making change for good.
POIEMA (1984–2011) with Barbara McCarty
Where was the POIEMA community? Poiema met together for over 27 years. We moved to 36 acres located about 5 miles southeast of Manor, Texas, in August 1986. The homes are built in one area close to Lockwood Cemetery. There are 3 mobile homes, one manufactured home, one modest pier and beam home, and one home of rammed earth construction. These homes are on half-acre leases, but all the land is held in common. There is a straw-bale chapel and a small concrete dome as well. It became an organized Presbyterian church in the fall of 1988. We are taking steps toward dissolving at the present time.
How did POIEMA start? The founding evangelist, Harry Chronis, was from West Virginia and came at the invita-
Monasticism Old and New Christian Reflection Series Quarterly, 2010 Baylor University www.baylor.edu/christianethics Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics released a publication in 2010 entitled Monasticism Old and New as part of their quarterly Christian Reflection Series. The journal contains a dozen articles from various authors that examine many of the historical antecedents to the present renaissance of interest in Christian community and residential ministry. Contributors examine the historical, artistic, architectural, and liturgical contributions of community and monastic movements from different eras within the Church. There is also an effort to harmonize the traditional Protestant rejection of monasticism with the current impulse within the evangelical church toward new forms of “neomonastic” living. It is a must read for those curious about or involved in Christian boarding homes, cohousing, intentional communities, households of hospitality, or any other residential ministry. An on-line study guide is an added bonus. Josh Gahr — CMVC, Editor
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The Great Good Place Ray Oldenburg
Third Ways Alan Carlson
A good book I discovered in college is called The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. Oldenburg is a historian who unpacks the way that the cultures of the Western tradition have used places as conduits for conversations that bound their respective communities together. I found his comments about the role of the beerhouse with regard to the development of the ideas behind the American Revolution particularly interesting. Another book I love is called Third Ways, and I have to include the subtitle on this one because it so well captures the variegated history that the author, Allan Carlson, covers in this book: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies - And Why They Disappeared. This is a collection of essays (some of which can be dry with numbers) that detail a past time when communities drew themselves together over against the forces of liberalism (he includes an essay on Karl Polanyi). If the movements described in this book were fully understood, we would understand our collectivizing efforts very differently. Steven Hebbard Genesis Gardens, Good Soil Developer — Austin, Texas
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tion of Mission Presbytery. He found that a document adopted in Mission Presbytery invited alternatives to the traditional new-church development. Harry was looking for a different way to do church: more participatory and with a communal and gardening aspect. He also hoped to enable mission activity by having no church building with a mortgage. What was the ministry focus of POIEMA and how did it evolve? We began with the hunger ministry working throughout the Presbytery. We were not in direct contact with a food pantry, but worked with our neighbors who were always in need of assistance. Some of us were political activists and others lent support. We had a broad range of agencies and programs that we gave regular and generous donations of money. We were supportive of “outward” ministry, which eventually began to wear us out. Our ministry shifted from “outward” to “inward” with an attention to calling. Because we held a deep appreciation for the land, the idea of a retreat center smoldered for years. We actually offered our first retreats in 2009 and 2010. The natural space at Poiema has been inspiring to many.
What were some of the reasons that POIEMA dissolved? Poiema had difficulty adding members. There were many reasons. We were not visible. The sign we posted in Manor directing people to a Presbyterian church was stolen as soon as it was put up. We were often recovering from internal conflict, which made it hard to be totally open in our hospitality. We had a hard time defining ourselves and once we did have a defined purpose, we were getting older and our property demanded a lot of maintenance. There were too few of us to take care of it. What value do communities like POIEMA have for the Church? So often people expressed gratitude that Poiema existed. We, on the other hand, did not feel proud of much because we fell so short of our own expectations. But I think the existence of an alternative church is encouraging to the larger church. If our ministry as a retreat center had continued, we would have served the church well. Read the full text of this and other transcripts on commonvoicemag.org
REFLECTIONS FROM THE PAST... What lessons would you share with the present generation of Christians endeavoring to live out their faith with others, in community, or in a residential ministry setting?
OAK GROVE ABBEY (2003-2008) Austin, TX Just like marriage or any big commitment, one’s expectations can make or break it. A naïve and romantic idealism is a recipe for disaster! A disposition similar to an athlete in training or a soldier on a tour of duty is better, because it can be hard, ugly, and painful in unexpected ways when modern Westerners choose to make their lives visible and exposed to others in such a deliberate fashion. The mirror of community is merciless, but the beautiful paradox is that in discovering your own dark faults you are fueled to love other people from a God-place rather than merely a self-motivated one. That is something that has to be experienced to be understood.
THE HOPE COMMUNITY (1993-2000) Waco, TX Spiritual formation and discipleship cannot easily be separated from community. Community is their context. It’s a little like asking what is the value of oxygen (or maybe what is the value of the universe) for the pursuit of life. 1 John 3:14 is always helpful in priorities. Community cannot be about accomplishing certain things but about loving each other on a daily basis. Seek the fellowship, guidance, and input of other communities. Hold community lightly – it is God’s work, not ours.
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MESSIAH MANSION (ca. 1970-1990) San Marcos, TX Community life fosters faster spiritual growth. You are forced to deal with issues that come up in your heart when you live in relationship with others.
mechanism to process what just occurred. Allow some room for comfort and do not always keep it on the edge. Be willing to talk about stuff other than religion! The basis for lasting community must be more than simply a call to duty. Shared interests will keep members together although the mission may change.
POIEMA (1984-2011) Manor, TX
EAST SIDE GROUP (ca. 1979-present) Austin, TX Many communities we have heard of were either inwardly focused (“Let's create community.”) or outwardly focused (“Let's do projects for others.”). ESG was successful at incorporating both. There seems to be another dichotomy found in Christian communities. A group can establish and maintain a cause or program or it can maintain the same membership. For example, a group created to battle hunger among the poor may see members cycle through as the lives of the members change over time, whereas a group that keeps the same members will find that the projects, focus, and causes will change over time. People in their 20s have different priorities than parents in their 30s and 40s and the time and effort they can expend on a worthy cause will be different. We made sure to periodically evaluate what we perceived to be the current nature of ESG, where we thought we were heading, and where we wanted to go as a group. We tended to allow change in mission rather than maintain an orthodoxy and watch members come and go as their needs changed. It is perfectly cool for a group not to be
The modern world lacks much in the way of community. One may be drawn to community but not have the need to be in an intentional community. And yet there will be others who hunger for serious community and will be satisfied no other way. Community offers challenge. It can offer safety as well, but this is not true for all of us – certainly not all the time. If you want to discover truth, then challenge is necessary. You may think that everyone in your community is on the same page, but no two people ever are, and one will be surprised by what the differences call out of us – show us of ourselves. Life in community will bring change. All of life is change, so community is good practice for dealing with the ups and downs of life. At its best, community offers companions on the journey. It is advisable to learn about consensus from the Friends (Quakers). Also, search your heart as to willingness to learn about yourself and your openness to change. Practice really listening to others. It is not a skill that is easy for most. Celebrate together. Support one another in their chosen disciplines. Have times of
too radical in form. In fact, it may be helpful for the group's longevity if it does not challenge too heavily the norms that one grew up with. After all, when a person eventually has a really bad day, the expectations that they grew up with will come screaming into the foreground, bringing forth harsh words and hurt feelings, neither of which is good for a community if it has no
only listening and times of silence. Know that a journey of faith has many possibilities and each journey is different and must be respected. We will meet challenges in community, but EVERYONE will need to be ready to learn from the other as well as teach the other. It is a gift if the community has a ministry together. Leadership is important, but listening is more important.
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The Common Voice is seeking articles, art, and poetry submissions that explore the nexus between Christian faith and ecology. The eco(logos) issue is an opportunity for you to help us explore the nexus between ecology and biblical justice; between the environment and theology; between nature and our efforts to return to right relationship with it.
In an age in which the public narrative focuses on the destruction of the natural world and the dearth of natural resources, we seek stories that elucidate the Christian response to creation care in urban, suburban, and rural settings. These include stories of creative community engagement with the land that led to personal transformation; stories of confrontation to established systems and patterns that led to repentance; and, stories of care and concern for creation that led to redemption of shared spaces and land.
Visit www.commonvoicemag.org or send queries and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Contributors [WORDS] Dee Sanchez is co-founder of Catholic Worker San Antonio and is part of an Intentional Neighborhood Community in a blue-collar neighborhood. She works as a Community Catalyst for Redeemer Presbyterian Church on San Antonio's west side. She works to knit together the second and third generation middle-class Mexican American commuting congregation with the new immigrant neighborhood through the congregation’s service in the neighborhood, relationships, and street worship. email@example.com Rev. Lindsay Cofield transitioned from pastoring traditional churches in 1997 and began encouraging a variety of groups to be the church in their own circles of influence... just gathering in homes, apartments, cafes, truck stops, street corners, yards, and parks. The church he now shares life with gives everything away each month, including its non-copyrighted website, greenchurch.info firstname.lastname@example.org Jim Jones is a cooperative housing educator, mentor, and developer. In his career with North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), he built NASCO's organizational capacity and financial sustainability and increased NASCO Properties' portfolio nearly three-fold. Under his leadership, the Inter-Cooperative Council at the University of Michigan became one of the largest student housing co-ops in the country. He has helped create dozens of student co-ops and inspired thousands of students and non-students to become involved with cooperatives. In 2009, he was inducted into the NCBA Cooperative Hall of Fame for his lifetime contributions to the student cooperative housing movement. email@example.com Christopher Wilkins is a member of the Kenilworth Community House in Austin, Texas, and is working on a biannual journal of dialogue and thought titled New Wine. After a year in New York with the Mary House Catholic Worker, he felt God calling him to Austin to live with simplicity with other such seekers. A lover of farming, he sees it as the perfect catalyst for those seeking God and community through a sense of place and intentionality. He is working, alongside Vox Veniae, to build an educational farm on the East Side of Austin for the purposes of helping to educate, liberate, and heal those who are involved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer: Melissa Jenkins
Tim Stewart is a writer and freelance editor who spent four years (2007–2011) in the “I.Q. Manor” men’s intentional Christian community in north Austin. His current writing project is a dictionary of Christian slang language (dictionaryofchristianese. com). Johanna Hosking Pulido is an educator, poet, editor, and a La Sallista missionary from Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. She lives in a three household community in an apartment complex in Austin, TX. She is currently a Parent Educator at ASPIRE Family Literacy Center in Austin, Texas, where she works as an ‘urban missionary’ empowering immigrant women and families through education, encouragement, and acompañamiento.
[WISDOM] Ref lections on the Christian Faith-and-Life Community (1952-1964) A CFLC Oral History Project interview with the Rev. Sam Junkin The Rev. Sam Junkin was a charter member of the CFLC from 1952-1954. He later attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and served as an ordained Presbyterian pastor for 14 years. In 1971, he became president of Schreiner University until his retirement in 1996. Ref lections on the Messiah Mansion (ca. 1970-1990) Rev. Tom Ray is the Pastor of Hill Country Church in San Marcos, Texas. Ref lections on Poiema (1984-2011) Barbara McCarty and her husband, Don, live near Pflugerville, Texas. They are both retired and are active members of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Barbara was recently Moderator of Mission Presbytery and is a Certified Lay Pastor.
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Contributors Ref lections on the Hope Community (1993-2000) Joe Gatlin is with Habitat for Humanity International as Director of Field Operations, U.S. Area Office. He and his wife, Nancy are part of Hope Fellowship in Waco, Texas. Ref lections on the East Side Group (ca. 1979-Present) Duncan Charlton is a recently retired Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief safety officer. His wife Lee is a paramedic and is the clinical manager for Fayette County EMS. They have recently moved from the Easterrain community to a ranch near Bastrop where they are raising a small herd of cattle. Ref lections on Oak Grove Abbey (2004-2008) Greg Willis is the Austin area sales manager for a wine distribution company. He, his wife, and children live in north central Austin in a sleepy neighborhood, blessed with vicarious “grandparents” nextdoor and good friends nearby. They are members of a small house church comprised of a family that lived in the Oak Grove Abbey and several others that have caught the bug with them.
[ART] The Common Voice is grateful to the Fireseed Anthology Project and its many present and former members for their contributions. Fireseed is a robust ministry that has created a space and an environment for the production of high quality art that brings glory to God. Please support their ministry by taking interest in Fireseed artists and their artwork. Amanda Clark contributed her original abstract painting (acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"), “New Beginnings.” Amanda is a local artist in Fort Worth, TX. She creates gestural abstract paintings. She lives with her husband, Shawn Clark, and their cat, Cali. You can view her work at amandaclairclark.etsy.com Shawn Clark contributed his work, "Bethel." A former Austin-ite, Shawn does mostly found-art sculpture pieces. He now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Amanda, and cat, Cali. Find more about his work at shawnalanclark.com
Melinda (Carter) Watters is a bi-vocational artist/missionary. Melinda was raised in a rural, tight-knit community centered around a 125 year old country church. This simple upbringing embedded the idea of loving and serving one's neighbors as a way of life. Moving across the state for college prompted her own personal spiritual journey, which has since led her to have a deep desire to create and cultivate beautiful communities of Christ followers wherever she is. Find more about her work and art at milliecarter.wordpress.com and fireseedanthology. wordpress.com Ryan Watters grew up in a large family going on summer vacations to the mountains and outdoor fishing excursions with his dad. His upbringing instilled a love for the beauty of creation, fly-fishing, and travel, but more importantly, gave him an appetite for adventure. In the last few years this adventure has taken on a different form in the shape of helping to create Christian community and culture in a world in need of Christ. His hope is that his photography would invite people into a desire for adventure and exploration and that his life would compel people to become followers of Christ. Find more about his work at flickr.com/photos/ryanwatters/sets Audrey Lopata has been drawing since she could pick up a pencil, and then consequently covering any surface available in her own little masterpieces. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Illustration, and her focus has been on whimsical art that would be suited to children’s literature. She currently resides in Austin, Texas, and works as a freelance artist. Other activities she finds herself enjoying include: gardening, subduing chicken rebellions, baking bread, adventuring in the outdoors, and enjoying her delightful community of friends and neighbors. Find more about her work at elfwyn.wordpress.com
[REVIEWS] Steven Hebbard is the director of Genesis Gardens in Austin, Texas. Genesis Gardens is a community first work program of Mobile Loaves and Fishes.
Melissa Jenkins currently lives in Austin, TX with her husband, a dog, cat, and 17 chickens. She teaches at Austin School of Fashion Design and is the designer and creator of Katastrophic, a line of organic cotton knitwear. Her experiences growing up and spending time overseas informs much of her work and thought. Find more about her work at katastrophicdesign.etsy.com
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Back cover: Home Grove by Libby Slaughter
Photographer: Ryan Watters
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