I have subtitled this post “Part 1” because I expect that I will revisit the topic of intentional community periodically throughout the year.
Intentional Christian Community is one of the core values of the Young Adult Volunteer program. It is one of the reasons that I was more drawn to YAV than other service year programs. I thought that I knew, more or less, what intentional Christian community meant. I am learning, though, that I did not. In fact, I’ve been living in it for nearly two months, and I still feel like I am barely scratching the surface of fully understanding intentional community.
Although this post will mostly focus on the positive aspects of intentional community, it would be deceptive not to mention the challenges. When I imagined intentional Christian community prior to my arrival, I pictured theological discussions, playing board games, and sharing meals. (All of which are regular occurrences, by the way). What I did not consider were multi-hour long conversations about the house budget, tensions caused by trying to cooperatively write a grocery list, navigating conversations that were too deep for my patience or energy levels at the moment, or figuring out how to kindly ask a housemate to stop using my bath towel. All of that being said, communication and cooperation within our house have improved with time. As we get to know each other better, we are finding patterns and rhythms that work well for the four of us.
Not only was I naive to the challenges that intentional community would entail, I did not know the joy and comfort that it could bring. I feel deeply cared for by my three housemates. I get the sense that they want to get to know me– really get to know me– so that they can better support me. I know that their love and friendship is always there, but sometimes days go by without giving it much thought. But there have been a few instances in which it really hits me: I acutely feel intentional community.
One of those times was on Wednesday night during our community meal. We have community meals every Wednesday and Friday, which means that one house member decides what to cook and buys the ingredients, and all four of us cook and eat together. This Wednesday’s meal was a bit different than the rest, though, because we were short a compadre. Miranda went home because of a family emergency, and so was not physically with us. We did, though, Skype her in. Tanner, Ryan, and I gathered around the laptop, and shared with Miranda our recent trials and joys. We expressed our support to her and her family. She shared her concern and solidarity for me, as my family is currently facing a crisis that is uncannily similar to hers. At the end of our Skype call, Miranda asked if we wanted to pray together. Tanner, Ryan, and I joined hands. The four of us took turns praying for each other– deep, genuine prayers of concern and love. In that moment, I thought, “This is intentional Christian community.”
I also felt a strong sense of intentional community a couple of weeks ago when the four of us attended dinner with a Tucson Borderlands YAV board member. It was probably nothing like you would expect dinner with a board member to be. This board member, Julie Karra, lives with her family in an intentional community here in Tucson. The community is comprised of 11 adults, some with grown children, some with young families, and some single. There are several houses and a condo-like building that back up into a large outdoor space. In the outdoor space is a chicken coop, a reverse osmosis water tank, a washing machine, a bike rack, lots of space for kids to run and play, and a large wooden table where they share a meal every Friday evening. We were fortunate enough to have been invited to partake in one of their Friday community meals. Everyone there seemed to deeply care for each other and be excited to hear how everyone’s week went. The kids seemed to trust all of the adults, regardless of whether they were their parents or not, which reminded me of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I was inspired by the happiness that I witnessed in this cooperative, simple living-focused community.
I learn more about community and what it means everyday. While I realize that living in intentional Christian community will not be without its challenges in the next 10 months, I am excited to live into the joy and support that it can offer.