Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Great Example of an Intentional Community

A guy I know and very much respect lives in an intentional community in Chicago. He also intends to work as a peacekeeper between Palestinians and Israel, and is passionate about a whole lot of things that I am passionate about. But that's not the point at the moment.

My friend Jonathan and his roomates have a blog called Parkside Stories about their intentional community. It's a few single guys living in an apartment complex in Wheaton. It seems to be a lot like the Wildflower apartment complex here in Dallas, because it's filled with refugees and immigrants. That is WHY they chose to live there. They are passionate about "welcoming the stranger", in fact, one of the guys wrote a book that I've been hearing a lot of buzz about and was reviewed in Christianity Today this month, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. This is their description of where they live:

Parkside, where we live, is a low-income apartment complex in the midst of a very affluent suburb of Chicago. About 40% of its residents are refugees who have been resettled here from all over the world. Another, say, 40% are Mexican immigrants and the other 20% are African-American and Caucasian. There are a host of issues that people face here: lack of legal immigration status, lack of English language skills, alcoholism, drug use, and prostitution. At the same time, the community posses many strengths: Neighbors know each other, kids play together in the courtyard, family is highly valued and celebrated, and for many God is their daily bread by which they live.

I love the stories on their blog because it is evident that they are so intentional about using their space and community to worship the Lord, and that they are so intentional about living WITH people. Reading their writing gets me excited. It gives me hope. It also makes me want to move into the Wildflower complex. :)

For instance this post, which talks about the importance of reciprocity - of not just giving to their neighbors, but also receiving.

We have plenty of opportunities to help our neighbors here. It’s not uncommon for people to be at one of our apartments for a meal, or for English learners to request help understanding their mail, or for a friend who has been detained for driving without a license (because, without a Social Security number, they are ineligible for a license, but they still need to drive to work) to ask us to pick them up at the police station. We’re happy to help. But for those of us with a North American cultural orientation, it’s often much more difficult, and uncomfortable, to receive the assistance and help of others than it is to give.

That sort of one-sided relationship, though, can be very unhealthy for us and unloving toward our neighbors. It can subtly lead to an unhealthy power dynamic, a desire, as Indian theologian Jayakumar Christian writes, to “play God in the lives of the poor.” The hand that gives, an African proverb notes, is always the hand on top.

With that in mind, we do our best to receive as much as we give amongst our neighbors. And as it turns out, there are many opportunities to receive, if we’re open to them. For example, I don’t own a car, so I can ask my neighbors for a ride or to borrow their car when I need to be somewhere. We eat food—Mexican food, Sudanese food, soul food—prepared by our neighbors on a regular basis. A few days ago, our neighbor Frank stopped us as we were heading up the stairs to our apartment. “You guys are always fixin’ things for other people,” he said. “So I thought you might be able to use this food.” He had a whole box full of groceries for us, which we’ve very gratefully been consuming all week.
Or this post, which talks about celebrating the Eucharist together.

We do church in our living room. It’s a lot of fun and it’s really messy. We have two apartments side by side: in one are the kids and the other are the adults. The kids usually outnumber the adults which brings us a lot of joy. Some Sundays after everything is said and done, we find that our apartment is littered with popcorn or our carpet has green play dough smeared into it or our walls have crayon scars all over it. Song and liturgy sheets are constantly appearing in the oddest places. This last week after moving one of our couches, we found underneath it several wadded sheets of liturgy along with a moldy uneaten half cookie....

For the last month at Parkside, during our services, both the kids and the adults have been preparing for our launch as an official altar (church plant) of Church of the Resurrection and with it this privilege of celebrating together the Eucharist. Our “services” thus far every Sunday night have consisted of, in two adjacent apartments, having some of our neighbors over, sharing a meal, and then doing a simple bi-lengual (English/Spanish) liturgy. This Sunday we will all--kids, youth, adults, whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, refugees, immigrants, rich and poor-- join together and feast at the Lord’s table.

1 comment:

Ake said...

Kacie it's wiiiiiiieeeeerd but you always blog about what i'm thinking about. i have just been to a church meeting about intentional community, on 'estates' - will hopefully blog about it too but it's 1:30am so sleep comes first!