Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Intentional Community", Community as family

I remember the thrill I felt when I read the words "intentional community" in the Abundant Table Farm Project's description earlier this year before I applied. It's a serious buzzword these days, but I'm still trying to understand what exactly an "intentional" community is, and how we fall into that definition.

We are 5 single, unrelated, post-college/ grad school women, most of whom did not know one another previously. We share our food, our house, and our work. I suppose these decisions were intentional on our part, but also just necessary and natural.

The words "intentional community" sound almost too stuffy for who I think we are. Maybe they're even overly noble. We're just living a year of life together, and I'm growing accustomed to the very natural rhythms of this year. Here are a few examples of the rhythms that have developed, from the vantage point of month 4: We...

- Sit around the breakfast table for an early morning coffee (or tea) and read the newspaper together before dividing up farm work. We sit around the lunch table and eat again. We sit around the dinner table and... yes, you guessed it. We eat most meals together - a different person cooks each night. Food binds us in many ways.

-Share a morning devotion/ meditation together before the work begins.

-Have weekly house meetings - when we do both practical tasks like chore assignments and also ask get-in-touch-with-your-feelings questions like, "have any boundaries been crossed this week that you haven't been able to communicate?" and, "what was something that challenged you this week?"

-Do things that recognize our individual personalities and interests, like salsa dancing, or capoeira, or instructing yoga, or watching a movie, or singing with a Broadway-wannabe choir, or making wreaths :)

-End (and begin) the week in corporate worship with the little house church that gathers in our home to share liturgy, prayers, the ritual of Eucharist, and a potluck.

These patterns that mark our days don't feel motivated by a conscious intentionality. I'd like to think of the rhythms that have developed as emerging out of a deeper need for family. So maybe the intentional part of our community is simply that we purposefully chose to live together. After looking over that list I just wrote above, we live as a family in a way, albeit a different kind of family than people are used to seeing and experiencing. Our community's daily patterns serve to deepen our experience as a family - eating a common meal, taking care of the house and land, and worshiping together. For 5 single, unrelated women, the definition of what family can mean has grown deeper.

You may have noticed that we have a special name for our unique relationships with one another: "sisterfriend." That's one beautiful word you won't find in the dictionary, and it eloquently fills the counter-cultural, undefined spaces between us. Co-worker, friend, loved one, kin.


  1. :) I loved reading this post, sisterfriend.

  2. Geez man. How'd you get to be so wise?

  3. This is a lovely, picturesque synopsis of the life you 5 are chosing for yourselves this year. I pray that someday you will look back and see all the ways these relationships have created the you of your hopes and dreams. I admire each one of you and am understanding more now about what an intentional community really is because of what I observe. The most obvious benefit is the way you laugh and relax with one another, support each others' interests, passions and chores. I wish I had had this opportunity when I was just out of college. I'm thrilled that you have it now.