LOVE this!

4 07 2010

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9

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sharing an excellent article by Tom Sine re: the needs and benefits of alternative community for our generation

4 07 2010

originally posted on his blog last month…

Community… a coming crisis and a creative opportunity 2010 to 2020

by Tom Sine

As we emerge from the worst recession in 70 years we learn that nearly 3,000,000 Americans lost their homes in 2009. But as we race into the second decade of the 21st century we are likely to face some other housing challenges that few are talking about.

First, as the economy begins to recover, housing prices are going to begin to rise again. Historically housing prices in North America have risen much more rapidly than the general economy. As a consequence we are likely to see growing numbers of 20, 30 and 40 year olds priced out of the housing market in 2010 to 2020. It is already happened in Santa Barbara, California and Vancouver, British Columbia where housing prices start at $700,000.

The problem is the middle class young have all been scripted to live out their parents’ affluent suburban lifestyles. I’ve yet to find a Christian college or church that is informing the next generation about the looming reality that growing numbers of them are unlikely to achieve the lifestyles they were raised with, and most will be unable to buy homes in the communities in which they were raised. These are just a couple of changes coming to the economy for the middle class.

While those of us who are part of the silent generation seldom spent more than 20% of one income for rent or mortgage, young couples today often spend 40% to 50% of two incomes to purchase their first home. As a consequence they have much less time and resources to invest in the work of God’s kingdom.

Increasingly were seeing couples like Jeremy and Janice, who bought a house together with another Christian couple in Colorado Springs. Each couple has their own floor in the home and their monthly mortgage costs are significantly lower. As a consequence of this decision, Jeremy and Janice were able to locate much closer to the college where they are involved in campus ministry, plus they are enjoying community with the other couple.

Not only is the single-family detached -housing option likely to be less sustainable economically, it is also likely to be less sustainable environmentally. In his new book Eaarth, Bill McKibben’s makes a convincing case that we could hit the peak oil tipping point where the cost of gas doubles or triples in the very near future. As a consequence all of us, and particularly those who are starting out, will need to create a range of new housing options that have a much smaller environmental footprint.

The cohousing movement is creating a spectrum of new cooperative communities all over the country that are not only less energy and land intensive but also create mutually supportive communities that will become increasingly essential for life in the turbulent times ahead.

The Bartimaeus community in Silverdale, Washington is the first Christian cohousing community in the Northwest. They have clustered their 25 units closely together on 3 1/2 acres with cars at the perimeter. Instead of backyards they use their land more intensively by creating one place where the children play together, and another area where members garden together. They meet several times a week in a common building and operate like a large extended family, not only caring for one another in their community, but reaching out and serving their neighbors in Silverdale as well.

Since growing numbers of those who are graduating from our Christian colleges are unlikely to be able to afford the single-family detached option, we are urging Christian colleges to help expand their students’ range of housing options for the future. We propose that instead of building yet another luxury dorm, they construct intergenerational cohousing communities. In this environment students would not only experience a community -based lifestyle but also discover a more sustainable and less expensive way of living.

In the last five years we have seen a range of experimental communities developed in Australia, Canada and the United States. These new communities are primarily composed of younger Christians who want to live in a way in which they are able to more authentically be a difference and make a difference in our world.

For example, Jonathan and Leah started the Rutba community in inner-city Durham, North Carolina. The members of this community live in three different homes. They not only share life together but they do morning and evening prayers and also enjoy sharing life and hospitality with their neighbors. They have discovered this cooperative lifestyle enables them to significantly reduce their living costs so they are able to free up both more time and money to invest in the lives of young people in their neighborhood.

Christine and I decided it’s not enough to write about people creating experimental new communities; we needed to join them. Four years ago we started Mustard Seed House with Eliacin and Ricci and their kids, who live upstairs in out tri-plex, and Peter and Anneka Geel who lived downstairs. We started meeting weekly over a meal to share our life and faith together as well as doing morning and evening prayers five days a week. Being very concerned about sustainability, we raise about 40% of our vegetables on an urban lot and enjoy doing hospitality with friends near and far.

We are also in the process of designing a Celtic eco-village on 40 acres on Camano Island, north of Seattle. Our hope is to have a permanent monastic community living on the land that models a much more sustainable lifestyle set to a very different spiritual rhythm. We plan to put a very high premium on sustainable design, including alternative energy sources as well as a large organic garden. Initially we are exploring creating a residential unit to host 25 to 35 students at a time who want to experience a simpler, more sustainable and celebrative way of life. {Be sure to read Christine’s more in-depth description in the Seed Shares.}

We plan to offer courses on sustainable living and sustainable spiritual practices for life in an increasingly volatile future. We would love to have friends from all over the planet join us in imagining and creating this new model for a more cooperative, sustainable way of life that could be replicated in other communities where you live and serve God.

Imagine the difference it could make if followers of Jesus started creating a spectrum of new experimental alternatives of cooperative communities which are more sustainable, celebrative, and less expensive and which also make a little difference in our troubled world.





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27 05 2009
Miss T goes to the doctor...

Miss T goes to the doctor...

My church, Christian Assembly, is currently studying the Book of Acts, and last week our pastor taught from Acts 2 and 4, which describe how the first believers shared their possessions with each other.  The text indicates they lived like a family.  This weekend, my second family (the girls I lived with during the last two years at Fuller) got together for a little reunion.  We mainly celebrated that Kacy, who moved back home to Texas last year, came back into town.  Saturday was a beautiful day: we met in Hermosa Beach for breakfast and then enjoyed the sun and sand on the beach for a few hours.  But on my way back to Pasadena, while idling at a stoplight in Gardena, my car broke down.  And though it was an unwelcome interruption to our beautiful beach day, it has also reminded me of God’s goodness and providence.

Kacy “lent” me her AAA, since i’m not a member, saving me over $200 for a tow truck to take my car back to Pasadena.  She then immediately hopped on the phone to call her mother, who lives in San Diego, who drove an extra car up for me to use until my car gets fixed, so that I don’t have to rent one.  She gave up visiting some of her friends at our church’s night service so she could get to Laguna to pick up the car for me.  And as she flew back home to Texas today, I was tooling around town in her old car, going to work and running needed errands.  The abundance of her willingness to share what she had, and go out of her way to give it, absolutely floored me.  It literally saved me hundreds of dollars.

much-needed reunion...

much-needed reunion...

And I was thinking about all of this today as I was driving around.  I started praying and thanking God for the ways He had provided for my needs.  And it became very real to me that the way God provided for my needs was through other people. The willingness of others to share became a direct extension of God’s providence in my life, and caused me, at the end of the day, to see him as a good and loving and giving God.  If people had been stingy, or too busy to share what they had, I would have been left asking God, “Why didn’t you answer my prayers?  Can’t you see my needs?  Don’t you care enough to provide for me?”  But in the gifts of others I can see how God made a way when there was no way, how he went to great lengths to care for my needs, and I can tangibly live in his security and providing love.

When we cling to our stuff, we mar the image of the God who gives liberally.  When we live individually, disconnected from a sharing community, we are left without resources when things go wrong, and are forced to resolve the problems on our own, with our own limited finances, bearing the burdens alone.  And if we pray and ask for God to provide, though he could move mountains to make something happen, we take away a lot of his options when we refuse to make ourselves – and our stuff – available to others.

In my inconvenient little automotive crisis, I quickly became aware of the way our individualism has infected us.  I had a longer list of those I couldn’t count on to share their things than those I could.  And I felt guilty for asking people to give extra time or share their stuff.  God only needed a few to remind me of how much he loved me, but think of how much we are limiting God – and hurting ourselves! – by hoarding our things or being unwilling to bear hardship together!

As I was driving to work today, to a job I did not even have to look for but that someone referred me to, in a car that was so graciously loaned to me, my heart began to overflow with gratitude for those who, in large ways and small, have gone out of their way to share their time or resources with me, who have stayed up late to listen to me or counsel me, who have cooked meals or sent money to buy my family groceries, offered plane tickets when my dad was in the hospital, gathered resources, and prayed not just for me but with me during some of my long and painful struggles.  In all of these things, I am grateful to the people, but even more joyful at the providence of God.  Turns out, that little lesson we learned in kindergarten, simply to share, matters a great deal after all.  The way in which we share our things will become the way in which others see the goodness of God.

Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all.” – Acts 4:32