Part of the series “A Manifesto–of Sorts”

Scripture, the Bible, is a building block to my faith and my beliefs on how I should act in the world.  Being brought up in a caring and loving United Methodist Church I consider a few other aspects to inform my faith and beliefs, these aspects are experience, reason, and tradition.  This is not just the way I do theology, but how I assess and live my life.  But, I suppose when it comes down to the bottom line, the way I choose to live my life is theological.

I believe humans were created for community.  I’ve come to this conclusion, first by my experiences in the world.  Simply, I do not like to be alone.  There are times that I enjoy silence and quiet reflection by myself.  But when it boils down to living my day-to-day life, I prefer to share it with someone.  This someone is my husband the majority of the time, however, I enjoy and feel the need to include as many people as possible in the ordinary things.

Everyone loves to get together and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.  But most people do not get together to share the mundane; preparation of a weekday meal, the grocery shopping, laundry, and other chores of life.  People travel in the same direction to work everyday, and many chose to do that in a car by themselves.  Why do we not reach out to one another, and ask for each other’s presence in our lives?

A simple answer to this could be that a particular person is introverted, and does not feel the necessity to share their lives.  Or it could be that no one knows how to do this in a manner that is fluid and not awkward.  Sharing the ordinary is not an easy task.  Everyone has different ways of cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, and simply living their lives.  They’ve never had to give reasons for why they do something a certain way, and may have never entertained the thought that there may be an easier, more efficient, or different way of doing things. 

In the Genesis 2 creation story we read, “Then the Lord God said ‘It is not right that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner (Gen. 2:18).’”  In this very first instance we read in Scripture that God created humans to not be alone, for us to have helpers and partners in our daily lives.  From this first verse all the way through the Hebrew Bible and New Testament we encounter instances, when God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit works in ways to bring humans together; God’s Covenant with the Israelites, Jesus gathering his disciples, and the structure of the early church.

Monasteries from very early church history are an example of people coming together to be in community.  Humans have come together throughout the history of the church.  I will admit that all of these communities did not turn out as planned or are not examples of what I wish to follow in my life.  The Shaker communities in 18th century desired to live a Utopian lifestyle and had a law for every aspect of life thrived into the early 19th century with as many as 6000 members and eventually declined during the American Civil War.  There can be many critiques made about the Shaker communities, but they are seen as one of the more successful Utopian societies in the 19th century.

In the 1960s-1970s many communities formed around ideals of the counter culture and these were often referred to as communes.  These communes lived on the outskirts of society, and daily life was shared.  In most instances these communes were known for their drug use and promiscuity, and were not formed on Christian beliefs.  Usually because of disagreements or disillusions about communal life, these communes eventually dissolved and their members returned back to society; however a few still remain.

Today there are thriving communities formed around an array of beliefs and ideals, and are now more commonly known as Intentional Communities.  Some are Christian, some practice other religions, and some claim no religious affiliation.  It is these Christian communities that I am most interested in.  I want to learn about their successes, their failures, and their motivating factors of living in community.  Many of these communities are more traditional, but contemporary models of monasticism.  There is also a movement that has been called New Monasticism. This movement, like many, is hard to define or put edges around.

I am driven to community, to look for places in the ordinary to share with others.  I am not speaking of a Utopian society, but one where those who live within a community then go out into the world using their resources that they have formed to be the hands and feet of Christ.  It makes me nervous to say something like this in a public forum, although I’ve had plenty of conversations with people about this idea.  The truth is, I do not have much experience “out there” in the world.  I do not know how to minister to the poor and needy.  Most of all I fear failure in an attempt to form a community who lives and breathrs the life of Christ together.  Perhaps we all fear to fail and that is why we keep to ourselves.  Living our separate lives, while we struggle with being Christians in the 21st century.  But if we truly want to live in the kingdom, I believe, we as Christians have to come together to work in the world.  I hope that you as my readers will explore this concept with me as we journey together.

You can read the introduction to this series here.