For us, “community” means an on-going group of
people committed to supporting and serving each other, particularly in
the context of changing our practical, daily lives to conform to Jesus’
teachings on how to live equitably with each other, and how to live
responsibly on the land, i.e., living simply. Such a community can be as
simple as a small special-interest group within a congregation, town, or
city that regularly support each other’s efforts, or as complex as a
full-time, live-in community of many families.
Communities focused on simplicity and social justice often evolve from very simple beginnings to much more complex and diversified communities. For instance, a congregation’s effort may begin with a simple special interest group and then, over a period of years, develop a faith-based, environmentally sustainable co-housing community.
There is an interesting story of how a dying Methodist congregation reinvented itself as a Christian co-housing community here: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/38/story_3853_1.html.
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While the term ‘community’ used to have a
commonly understood definition, in the Internet age it has come to
mean many different things. For instance communities can be:
It is the commitment of the community that gives a way of life its meaning and longevity. A community enables its members to build and maintain deeper relationships, which is critically important to our psychological and spiritual growth. It creates a ‘critical mass’ of people who believe and live similarly, and provides a strong spiritual base to sustain the effort for a lifetime. In the Anabaptist tradition, living simply is a necessary outgrowth of the Bible’s description of how we should live. That description focuses on a loving concern for each other, which is fundamentally what simple living is about.
As a practical matter, living simply requires a group effort for efficiency and effectiveness. We need to build truly functional communities that depend less on large, far-flung government and institutional services to support us. We need to develop new, or reinvent existing communities into truly livable, walkable, self-sufficient, local communities rather than bedroom suburbs or hollow central cities. Geographically contained communities obviously reduce the energy wasted traveling from place to place, as well as delivering goods and services. We can walk or bike to work and visit our friends, have one car, or no car, instead of 2, buy a lot less gas, and pollute a lot less in the process.
Another large benefit is that a community of people, gets more attention thus helping advertise and spread this "better way of living" faster. We are, after all, concerned about all of our neighbors (and strangers) not just selfishly protecting our own little corner of the world.
Community members can support each other as they begin to practice simplicity and later, in continuing and improving their efforts. For instance, communities can:
Below are a few ideas about how to get a special
interest group started in a congregation or local community. Once a
group is formed and significant interest is generated, lots of bigger
things can happen. Getting Started An exploratory meeting with a few
interested people is a good way to begin. Most of the steps below are
obvious, but they may serve as a reminder in the planning process.
Ideas For Planning An Initial Meeting
Keep It Going
Plan regular and spontaneous events/opportunities for the group to get together. These might include activities such as:
Christian Communities and Resources
A number of the following organizations are focused primarily on Christian communities in general rather than on simple living per se. However they are excellent resources for those thinking of establishing simple living communities as well.
The Bruderhof - an international communal movement of families and single men and women who seek to put into action Christ’s command to love God and neighbor.
Plough Publishing House - An independent religious publisher which has been the literary mouthpiece of the Bruderhof, an international movement of Christian communities, since the 1920s. It offers spiritual classics, devotional collections, seasonal anthologies, and titles that address specific topics from a biblical perspective, including prayer, illness and death, forgiving, child-rearing, sex and marriage, economic justice, and community.
House Church Central, The Simple Life - an excellent, well-written essay on the simple life by Vernard Eller.
The Hutterites – a communal group of Anabaptists, living on scattered colonies throughout the prairies in North America.
PlowCreek – A Global Village Practicing the Peace of Jesus.
Temescal Cohousing – a success story.
Koinonia – a Christian farm community.
Reba Place Church – a 24/7 congregation living out the way of Jesus.
New Creation Christian Community – an evangelical Christian church in the UK.
Economy of Communion. Unlike the consumer economy, based on a culture of having, the economy of communion is the economy of giving. It emanates from a spirituality of communion lived in every day life, links efficiency and solidarity, and relies on the strength of the culture of giving to change economic behavior.
Links to Christian Communities.
Secular Community-Building Resources
The Cohousing Association of the United States – integrating the needs and hopes of all champions of cohousing.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance – The New Rules Project is a program of ILSR, a national nonprofit research and educational organization which proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics.
Intentional Communities – providing resources for finding a community home and creating more community.
PlanetFriendly.net, The Community Page – an overview and directory of links to a wide variety of ideas and projects that help create stronger, healthier community.
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