an excerpt from Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okuro, used as part of communion homily at our worship welcome table Nov. 21, 2010:
In reading this excerpt I am particularly mindful for the Thanksgiving Season, remembering our religious ancestors who formed a free church (and a "commonwealth") with a covenant, not a creed, in Scrooby England in 1606, travelled to Holland, then on a journey to a new continent with the ringing words from their Pastor John Robinson who said "more light and truth are yet to break forth", who gathered inside the Mayflower and signed their Compact for a "civil body politic" in November 1620, enduring loss and hardship through bonds of community, both with members of their church and with those who had travelled with them to new shores, and who discovered a thanksgiving with others already here, where God was already present waiting to be discovered by them. We are in many ways pilgrims today, envisioning a new kind of common life possible, on new shores amid the wreckage of the American Empire. This is a vision, an aim, both idealistic but also grounded in the utmost realism of what is necessary, what hasn't worked before, and what is worth pursuing. Common Good may require Common Life.
"Nurturing a Common Life":
Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture...Jesus' culture was more like the Bedouins than the Burbs.
The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our own desires, jobs, and goals is radically counter-cultural. Even our architecture is built around individual families, not around community. But for many Native Americans and tribal cultures, society and architecture are built around a village. Individual dwellings...are very small, and they are built around a central common space where people eat, dance, sing, and tell stories. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely. But God invites us into a common life with others.
Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we can build our lives around God's vision for community.
We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. Some folks are indigenous to the neighborhood. Some are missional relocaters. Some have gone off to school, trained as doctors, lawyers, social workers, or business folk, and then returned to the neighborhood to offer their gifts to the work of restoration. The houses are small, but that is all we need--a place to lay our heads--because most of our lives are lived on the streets, on the stoop, sweating in the practice of resurrection. Village life begins by greeting the day in morning prayer, and in the evenings we share a meal or grill out on the street. Maybe there is a village center where folks can cook healthy breakfasts for the kids as they head off to school. Perhaps in that center there are laundry machines that we can all share and a game library where kids can borrow a game for the afternoon. Maybe there's a tool library so folks can check out a saw or drill for the day; maybe there's an exercise space for lifting weights or taking an aerobics class to keep our bodies healthy. It's a dream for a village that shares things in common, a space that makes sure possessions and privileges are available for all, a place on earth where there truly is a "common wealth."
Shaping a life together sometimes begins simply by creating a space for community. For many intentional communities, that means that we work only part-time so that we free up time for things we don't get paid to do, like welcoming homeless folks for a meal, helping neighborhood kids with homework, planting gardens on abandoned lots, or praying together each day. Sometimes we have to remove some of the clutter that is occupying our time and energy, like getting rid of the television. But then, as we say no to some things, we say yes to others--cooking meals, painting murals, playing games. And most people don't miss the old life much anyway. A reporter once told Mother Teresa, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars." She responded, "Me neither." We live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for. Not only does it give life to others, but it gives us life as well."