Over the last thirteen years, we’ve lived for a total of nearly a year in a few different chunks at Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian service community east of Athens, Georgia. We returned there on vacation last week. Each time we go back, we are challenged to live more simply, more passionately, and more thoughtfully. Here are some of the biggest insights…
This is hard. Over the past decade or so, intentional Christian community experienced a bit of a boom, it seems. Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way in Philly made brought a lot of attention on different ways to structure our lives. Jubilee is over thirty years old and is still going strong, making it a grandmother community of sorts in the U.S. But no one who has lived in community for any amount of time keeps the romantic, folksy view of it. It ain’t easy.
You need to talk. Communication matters tremendously. Doing it well requires a lot of commitment, time, and honesty.
Give it up. Intentional community is sort of like marriage. You need to put others’ needs and even preferences above your own. If community members aren’t willing to do this, none of you will last long (and neither will the community).
Systems matter. At Jubilee, there are signs on everything. How to recycle. No guns on the property. How to connect to the internet. No swimming without a staff member. Close the door when you’re on the phone. This can sound a bit draconian. But having good systems in place and submitting to your fellow members make life flow much more smoothly.
You’re not better than anyone else. This was brought home by my friends Don and Carolyn who are two of the founding members of Jubilee. Don said that it’s harder to faithfully follow Christ with a job and salary and mortgage, in a typical North American context. Having a counter-cultural living arrangement (even if it facilitates faithful living) does not make one better than others with different callings.
Pray. At Jubilee, there’s an optional morning prayer time for 30 minutes. You head into the community library (one large room), grab a seat on a couch, and pray in silence for about 25 minutes. Then a leader shares a passage and opens up group prayer aloud. This simple pattern helps us to consider our failings, pray through our worries, and be comfortable being together.
That’s just six things. I think I’ve absorbed a lot more that I can’t even name or notice.
How have you experienced Christian community, both good and bad, intentional and not-so-much?