catapult magazine

catapult magazine


living communally without the commune


Mar 22 2002
12:40 am

Yeah, that’s it exactly. When the fire truck pulls up, everybody comes out to talk and watch. I suppose in some communities around the world, people would be actually helping to put the fire out or something, but we have professionals to do that.

In a recent article in Harpers, Wendall Berry bemoaned the fact that in our corporate culture, everything is for sale and consequently, everything can be purchased. I would never suggest that eliminating fire departments would be a good thing, but when there are crises of any sort, we turn to the professionals to help sort things out. As a community we watch and comment, but do little.

And that makes me wonder about the church. Alice, you mention the importance of community in the context of the church. I agree, and love my church family. I wonder though if there is any way to get the world to take the church seriously. We are in a time of crisis (and it is arguable that we always have been and always will be until Christ’s return) and the church offers truth, shelter, vision, and community, but people from outside the church only seem to turn to it (if at all) as a last resort.

I wonder whether that’s because churches are often a disconnected community in a sea of disconnected communities. I drive 25 minutes to get to church. There is a church of my denomination five blocks from my house, but I go to the church I go to because we have been members there since before we lived where we do now, we are committed to that family, and we and we slightly prefer their theology. As a result, though, my church community grieves, aids, and celebrates its particular losses, problems, and triumphs — without connecting (much) to the losses, problems, and triumphs of my residential community, work community, or friends. I have a feeling that this disconnected fragmentsation is part of the problem. Anyone have any suggestions on how to fight it?

Oh, and I like Willa Cather too. I’m looking forward to the day I can introduce my daughter, Cricket, to that book too. For now, just Farmer Boy though. :)


Sep 08 2002
12:42 pm

I’ve mentioned before that I live in a house with my wife, child, and also my wife’s sister, her husband, and their three kids. There are certainly advantages and sacrifices, but I guess it has been most interesting to me to see how the two combine to create a new way of living. If the discussion can tolerate some specifics, here is an incomplete list, for us at least.

Advantages: We eat at home at least six nights a week, but my wife and I only need to prepare food three times and we have twice the number of specialties. And if you need to borrow an egg, you don’t have far to walk.— We are able to sing after meals and it sounds like more than just two or three people (the quality of the singing will improve, we think, as the children grow). — Babysitting, especially in emergency or short notice situations, is a snap. — Two families paying one mortgage. — There is always someone to talk to. — We share a lot of stuff: lawnmower, van, rides to work, toys, clothing, bikes, grocery shopping, etc.

Sacrifices: During daylight the house is loud. It is hard to find a quiet corner except in the tree house. - A two stall garage fits our cars fine, but bikes, wagons, scooters, etc. get a bit cramped. - Different styles of neatness can conflict.

But I guess most of the other things that I might put under sacrifices are actually the reasons that we entered into this thing. We wanted to live more frugally. I grew up in a house where the formal dining room and the formal living room were never used. That is certainly not the case in our house — every square foot gets used. And I guess the best advantage that I see overall is that it has taught us to look at life differently — to recognize a little more clearly where joy comes from and what comfort can be and that not only can’t we do it alone, there is usually no good reason to try to live such an individualist life.

People talk to us sometimes and say, “Well, it sounds great, but i could never do it.” Of course you could, if you had to. If you wanted to.

All of this is to underscore Grant’s last post (about it changing your way of life) and his closing line especially. I’m not going to claim to be living obediently — not completely — I am too much of a sinful Calvinist to say that — but I will say that it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice. It is something we want to do out of gratitude for the far greater sacrifices God makes for us.