Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jay Howard on Community

Hi everybody! First, thank you Bethany for inviting me to write a guest post for your super-cool blog. My focus in this post will be on the last part of the coffeeculturecommunity triad. (The only part I know anything about!) Specifically, I would like to talk a little about what I have learned from this of year living in an intentional community.


First, Some Background

I recently graduated from college and got married. Then, motivated by a vague-but-persistent interest in “togetherness,” Amber and I decided that we wanted learn a little bit about intentional communities. To accomplish this goal, we moved to Pittsburgh, PA where a brand new intentional community called Formation House was just starting up. We have lived here almost a year.

“What is an intentional community,” you ask?

In the most basic terms, an intentional community is a planned residential community designed to have a higher degree of teamwork than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common vision, and they typically also share responsibilities and resources.

This year has been about fleshing out the details of what that means. As we have journeyed through this year we have found that living in intentional community is pretty darn cool. Formation House is a one year program, and because we have enjoyed this year so much Amber and I are already exploring ways to continue incorporating the practice of community into our lives in the future. Here in Pittsburgh we have forged close friendships, learned best-practices for community life, and eaten a lot of awesome, home-cooked meals.


Charisms and Focus

One of the things I have learned this year is that different communities have different focuses, or “charisms” as they are called. ( Examples of charisms in intentional communities are:

meals together
voluntary simplicity
interpersonal growth
egalitarian values
prayer or spirituality

Many communities make the mistake of biting off more than they can chew.

It is common at the beginning stages to say, “Let’s pray together every night, eat breakfast together, plant a garden, get involved with the local church, practice hospitality with all our neighbors, build a park in the vacant lot across from our house, and raise chickens!”

Nobody thinks about cleaning the bathroom. But trust me, it will come up! People who are older and wiser than me recommend “doing one thing well,” and then adding more stuff after the community has established some norms.

Formation House was created to be a training ground for how to do intentional community. I would say
Formation House has three charisms.

We eat meals together 5 nights a week,
we pray together 5 nights a week, and
we meet roughly once a week to go over a curriculum which focuses on interpersonal growth.

By “interpersonal growth” I mean communication, listening skills, conflict resolution, leadership, group decision making. That sort of thing.

Those three things keep is pretty busy as a community because all three call for a good chunk of time and effort. But we still have plenty of time to do other things. For example, we each work full time. And we each have our own personal interests and hobbies.


Skill Sharing

A big part of the fun of this year has been sharing our hobbies and interests with each other. We have quite an assortment of fun occupations between the eight of us. Some examples:

Bee Keeping
Bird Watching
Home Brewing
Bicycle Co-Op
Taking care of/playing with a golden retreater
Watching the science fiction television show Firefly

When eight people share their lives together, there is almost always going to be somebody around who is interested in what you are interested in. How awesome is that? When I get share my enthusiasm for chess, for example, or when somebody takes me bird watching for the first time, it is rewarding for everyone involved.

Further Reading

In conclusion, I still have a lot to learn about community. That said, if you have any questions or are interested in reading more about community, check out my and Amber’s blog, Adventures in Togetherness, or email me at jayhoward1ATgmailDOTcom. I would love to hear from you. Thank you for reading my post about intentional community.

Disclaimer: The chipmunks have no significance. :) Pin It

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