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"Intentional Community"

When I was growing up in west-central Saskatchewan, a neighbouring family announced they were moving. Because of my young age, I did not quite catch all the details surrounding the move. 

What I do remember, though, was the conversation around our family table of this ‘adventure’ for the family. They were moving to the Matador Co-op Farm.

The Matador Co-op Farm was located on part of what once was the Matador Ranch, east of Kyle, Saskatchewan. The ranch was originally operated by the Matador Land and Cattle Company of Texas.

The idea of establishing the farm had been to create a place for soldiers returning from WWII, to have a chance at making a home for families. The farm operated from 1947 to 2011, in the part of Saskatchewan that is wide-open and breathtaking space; inviting opportunity in creating a special style of living. 

A similar opportunity continues today, The Bethlehem Farm, but in the hills of West Virginia.

The Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic community describing itself as “an intentional Christian community--based on “the Gospel cornerstones of service, prayer, and community.”
(Eric Fitts, Director of Bethlehem Farm)

A group of year-round caretakers welcomes students from university programs to this unique place. They are renowned for their embracing 'hugs' greeting arrivers to the community. “We do that as a symbol of Christ in each person. What would we do if Jesus showed up on the property today?” said Fitts. “It’s also a way of making ourselves vulnerable. When you open your arms, they’re not stiff out in front of you.” (Fitts)

The Alban Institute’s focus this week is: community

The Editor at Alban at Duke Divinity, Prince Rivers, writes, “We all know that our world is fragmented socially, economically, and politically.”

"We hear the words of this Easter Season's reading of the gospels.  At first, they sound countercultural to our present experience, as we hear Jesus of Nazareth calling us to community."

Emphasis on community is essential to the call of the gospel. The two stories above share real life intentional community. Living, intentional, community does not need to be one where community is lived in a “collective” space.

Community means different things to different people. 

Rivers shares this ideal of community from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Community sounds like a dream come true, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us not to cling to superficial ideas."

In his book, “Life Together,” Bonhoeffer says, 'The person who’s in love with their vision of community will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community everywhere they go.'

A parish is an intentional community.

Our elders created our parish as an intentional place for the community to gather, in sharing and supporting each other, as they lived their faith in daily life. They created these parishes because they loved and cared about the people around them.

This same culture today is what keeps parish life strong in this community. It is not about buildings. It is about creating community.

When we are involved in community, we become stronger and more united--like the stands of a rope wound together--to make one solid strand. And when we love our community, we draw more people--a community of hospitality and grace are created. 

I remember the Sunday outing our family made to visit that family: previous neighbours who had moved from our community. My experience of hospitality and grace are the lasting memory-images  I hold of that adolescent visit with our friends at the Matador Farm.

Archdeacon Brian+