Living in an intentional community: new year check-in

I’ve recently started watching the show Community on Hulu between waiting for new episodes of New Girl, Modern Family, SVU, Parenthood, and The Following. Note: we do not have cable, much less a working TV so Hulu is all I have  when I feel like indulging in media.

I was intrigued to watch the show Community simply because of its name. It is a rather quirky sitcom, but I’ve found a couple really good messages about being in community. For those who haven’t seen it, it is about the adventures that a regular study group has while all going to the same community college. In one random episode I clicked on, one message that was revealed was how to adjust community if someone new comes in, or if someones leaves. Surprising how relevant TV can be sometimes.
We (Rob Demar and I) had our second reflection of the year last week with our program director who led us through a few questions about our community and how to realign our actions (if needed) to make our year as intentional and focused on each other, our neighborhood community, and faith as possible. Part of our commitment to this year of service is living in an intentional  community, and after a few months of living and working with each other it made sense to re-evaluate where we are at as far as the covenant that we made for our community, and just a general check-in about how we are feeling it is going.
Coming into this year, we all brought an idea of what we individually define community as, and how we have experienced in the past. We have found that we all come from very different places on that front, but as we all understood- community is malleable and flexible depending on who constitutes it.  My personal definition has been crafted over many years of experiencing different communities: Girl Scouts, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, the Leadership Minor at the University of Minnesota, Students Today Leaders Forever, and more informal yoga, running, or other fitness communities I have been a part of – to name a few.
After living with each other for 4 months, and still with over half of our program left, we have a lot of time left to iron out some kinks that have come up over the past couple of months. It is undeniable that we all want to be in community with each other and make our year about Faith, Friendship and Service.
But we also have to face it: community is messy. You come in with different interests, personalities, preferences, pet peeves. Coordinating this and all of our schedules may seem easy for 3 people because there aren’t more of us to coordinate with. Just to give you a peek, within the 3 of us we have one very deep and intentional person, yet not detail oriented, one who is almost the organizer and small detail-focused one of the group, and the other one is kind of more big picture, and carries a facilitator and initiator role. So all very different!
But we have figured out that because there are only 3, things become much more personal and raw quicker, because we see each other more often than we would if there was like a group of 6 or more.  I like how Eileen E. O’Brien, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Catholic Volunteer Network Board Member (the branch of  that VVC is a part of) describes it:

“First, we must define what community is and what community is not. Community is not family; those volunteers in community are generally not related by blood or marriage. There is no long-standing or contractual obligations between the members. After their mission time is finished,  community members may or may not see each other again (or even want to).”

While we are still working through making this year everything we want it to be, we have to recognize that compromise, challenge, vulnerability, frustration and uncomfortable moments are all necessary parts of the process. But we also recognize that fun, adventure, creativity, honesty, intentionality, God and love are things we also desire to be present- which most of the time they are.
It is hard to put a definition on community, but again Eileen O’Brien says it well:

“In airing the differences, community members need to start from a position of good will: expressing it for oneself and assuming it in others. Assume the positive, not the negative. A small item we used in our community: If the door slams, assume it is the wind; do not automatically assume that that community member is mad or having a bad day. Assume good will.

Community is an intentional sharing of one’s life, involving prayer, compromise, and  respect. These habits are not meant to paper over differences, but to give strength and comfort, to point all the members together toward God, seeing him through their fellow community members, and through members of the larger community whom they serve.”


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