We’ve all heard of the power of intention. Ask and you shall receive. So what happens when your intentions are only half formed? Does the universe still provide?
Arie Jan and I have an ongoing fantasy of living in an intentional community, yet the fantasy has a nebulous quality. Sometimes we picture ourselves in an urban eco-village with a square block of apartment buildings surrounding an urban garden and teaching facility. Other times we envision a rural eco-village hinged around a sprawling organic farm, waterways and forest. People gather together to work on various projects that are important to them and have a healthy social life with one another, although not overly social.
The members of the community are united by a shared mission statement of how to live with one another and how to respect the planet—a mission statement we have yet to define. Sometimes we think the community should be tied together through faith, other times we think it should be a cross section of society, believers and non-believers alike.
Although my husband and I are drawn to community, we are also private people who like closing the door at the end of the day. As you can see, our vision is not so clearly defined. Yet as our life begins to unfold here in Holland, we have the uncanny sensation that the universe has answered our half formed intentions to live within an intentional community.
Monasteries aside, I had never thought of a church as an intentional community. Sure, people attend voluntarily and share a common belief and intention. But, I view an intentional community as people who live together, and church members don’t live at the church. But, as a matter of fact, we do live at the church. And in doing so, we have become more known to this congregation in just a few short months than we did in two years at the last church we attended. Church members have given us everything from stuffed animals for Ezra, to plates, pots and pans, garden furniture, couches, tables and dressers.
I joined a group of volunteers one morning to prepare Easter breakfast for 90 other church members. As we poured juice and set little bowls of butter and jelly on the tables, I felt we were part of something intentional here. As the future church managers, our living space is physically connected to the church, which provides both work and connection to a large community of people.
Although I live in an urban area surrounded by strangers, I can look out my window and see someone I know on a regular basis. Yet, when we shut the door at the end of the day, we are alone. Although the church is not exemplary when it comes to the environment, they do have a committee that vends fair trade products one Sunday a month after church, they use real coffee and tea cups and reusable cloths for cleaning, and they are incredibly diligent when it comes to turning off the heating and lighting when not in use.
Although everyone has their own relationship with spirituality, the presumption of shared belief is there as a uniting force. Church members volunteer to work on group projects—providing meals and companionship for the elderly, outreach programs to Suriname, cleaning and maintaining the church, coming together for bible readings, etc. And, the church rents out rooms to community members—believers and non believers alike. Thus, we get to see a cross-section of society coming in and out of the doors: people from embassies and other government organizations, members of home owners associations, interesting authors and their followers, musical choirs, even classes are held here. Does this sound a bit like our half baked community idea?
When we thought of an intentional community, this is not at all what we envisioned, but we can’t help but be aware of the parallels. It’s as if this is an intentional community intro course with the ability to retreat into our residence when it’s too much–yet we are still right next door. It’s not fodder for a reality TV show, but some days I think the interactions, the problems to be solved, the annoyances, sadness and joy provide us with a real life understanding to what community is about.
Now what would happen if we really fleshed our ideal eco-village concept and wrote that mission statement? Would we find ourselves in an Italian hill town raising organic romas and lemons with a community of like minded individuals? Will we transform this church into an eco village? That’s the fun of life. There really is no telling how things will turn out.