catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 16 :: 2006.09.08 — 2006.09.22


Community in the country

They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of bread." (Luke 24:34-35)

"Do you have any friends who understand where you're coming from?" she asked me, tearful at her own recognition that she doesn't have any such friends in her life right now.  And feeling like a well-fed aristocrat in conversation with someone who's starving, I had to admit, "Yes, we have a lot of friends who understand where we're coming from."

Much of the time, I feel like I'm at the fringes of the dominant culture, with a passion for public transportation and biking, a tendency to present canvas bags at the grocery check-out, a love of liturgical tradition, a now-but-not-yet approach to vegetarianism and a belief that God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.  I feel the pull of a mighty current that's moving toward consumerism and rights language and power and nationalism, even while my path has me, not even heading upstream, but straining to cut right across.  How is it that, even in choosing the counter-intuitive way, I find myself in such good and plentiful company?

Every time the topic of friendship comes up, I find myself envisioning a map of the U.S. and Canada and even the world, with dozens of cities highlighted where I know I can find at least one beloved kindred spirit who shares a significant number of my deepest values.  I ask myself again and again, how am I so fortunate to have such an abundance of love in my life when so many people are lonely?

It's an important question, one that maintains my focus on gratitude, but this is not an article pondering scarcity.  It is a celebration of the mystery of abundance.

About one month ago now, my husband Rob and I headed to Cameron, Ontario for ten days at Russet House Farm.  Since January, we'd been working with the folks at Russet House to plan Practicing Resurrection, a conference for people of all ages who wanted to learn more about how everyday life can be a reflection of one's deepest convictions.  Thank God, the Spirit followed—or, more accurately, led us down the quarter-mile gravel lane to the 50-acre sustainable farm and all week, as folks arrived and began to learn one another's names and stories, we did indeed practice the resurrection.  Through trips to a local community shared agriculture farm and an Amish farm, communal weeding and toilet maintenance and cooking, campfires surrounded with stories and songs and breathing in the air of late summer in Canadian Shield country to a background of meteor showers and a full moon and the howls of coyotes—every participant was surprised by a sense of belonging and renewal.  Informal camping during the week built up to formal weekend workshops, crowned with celebration in a communal meal, a late-night musical jam session and Sunday morning worship with communion.  I felt drunk on new wine.

As I'm being careful not to project my experience on others, here is a comment from one camper, who recently graduated from college:

The entire conference was wonderful—the community of people coming together right from the first night we arrived.  I felt very welcomed, and as I spoke with people and discovered the dreams and visions and worldviews we had in common, I was very encouraged and I realized I was starting to let my guard down in a big way.  Often I feel like the minority, like the subversive, but at Practicing Resurrection it was a rare moment of like-minded people coming together and sharing, talking, working, worshipping, singing, eating communally…it was great!  …I feel I've been reshaped, refocused on things I've always felt are important, but now I've had a jolt of, "Hey, all these things are really neat and good things to be doing, and YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE who feels that way, and you should really push on."  And I don't know what pushing on will mean, but I feel excited to do it again in whatever shaped it may take.  I feel renewed.  

And another comment from a retired couple:

Our most memorable part of the conference was to rub shoulders with so many younger people grappling with the issues brought up at the conference. We were probably among the oldest attendees, but we felt very much at home with everybody. We are products of the 60s—products of Calvin College, Dr. H. Evan Runner and the Groen Club.  At that time we grappled with the same issues of sustainability and our place as stewards in God's creation. …We were inspired again with the conference to live stewardly lives and to have the courage to practice sustainability in God's good creation.   We hope the conference will continue to have an impact on us.

Again, I am overwhelmed with awe and gratitude that such goodness was given the grace to become tangible, emerging out of our longing for true community like the blessed improvisation of jazz.  Beyond prayers for smooth logistics, dreams too extravagant for words gave hint of coming true.  With a desire that true community will surprise all those who long to be filled, I give thanks for the organizers, presenters and participants who saw fit to make their way to rural Ontario for a transformative, portable experience of the Kingdom.

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