Calvin Miller’s The Singer is a narrative poem retelling Jesus’ story in the context of the Middle Ages, and the main character is a bard who sings a song that changes lives. The book is beautiful and poignant, and it communicates in ways an essay or a speech could not. Yet, the Singer’s song is nothing new. It is an old song sung fresh, just as Jesus taught old instruction in ways that challenged his hearers.
My wife, Chrissy and I, along with our daughter, have been listening to the ancient song Jesus sings, and over the last several years, we have slowly been learning the steps to a new dance—at least, a dance that is new for us. We, including two other families, are moving toward dancing together in the form of a new community.
Briefly put, we will be a missional community living in one household and partnering with others in a way that encompasses every part of our lives to live out the church, the people of God.
Chrissy describes beautifully some of her thoughts about what it means and how we got here in her own writing here.
My own journey to this point would be a long tale in its entirety, but I think the best place to start is with Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri. When I was in college, Chrissy and I took an elective that consisted of some reading and a weekend trip to a nearby monastery—Assumption Abbey. The monks who reside there are Trappists, a strict order who live quietly and simply. They spend their days partly in work, in order to support the monastery, and partly in prayer, meditation, worship, and fellowship.
I know it is an unusual life, and unappealing to most, but I fell in love. The peace, the wholeness, the deep connection they had with Jesus, and the freedom to immerse themselves in study and prayer, giving themselves to God and to each other was breathtaking. Fortunately, I already had fallen in love with Chrissy and gave no serious thought to changing the trajectory of my life, but monastic life planted a seed in my heart.
Another significant influence has been our church community since moving to Portland several years ago: The Evergreen Community. It is a community that has tried to do things differently, tried to be holistic, to be a church shaped by its mission to lead people to see Jesus who most likely would not otherwise find him, to be a people bound together in love and service and a common passion for God and this city. We have found a taste of what community means, and more than that, we have found a beacon of what Jesus can do with a group of people who give themselves up to him and to each other.
Just as with all meaningful relationships, it has taken a long time to integrate with Evergreen, and it is not always smooth sailing to stick with these people. But they are our people. We belong to them, and they belong to us. The depth of this community (despite the dysfunction that comes from including humans in its midst) has shown me something of what Christ’s church is meant to be.
The seed planted by Assumption Abbey was watered by The Evergreen Community.
Among the myriad other influences in my life, a particular train of thought that captivated my attention a couple years ago was fueled by classes I was taking at Western Seminary coupled with conversations with Aaron Smith. Much of those thoughts are contained in earlier posts entitled Following Jesus: A Beginning (Part 1 of 2) and Following Jesus: A Beginning (Part 2 of 2). In summary here, I began to look back to monastic life for wisdom in how to move ever closer to being like Jesus.
I haven’t the space to recount everything I have thought or encountered that has shaped my thinking and the direction of our lives, but the final piece was the one that brought us to where we are. Chrissy and I had talked about the concept of living in a household with other people in order to foster a holistic expression of community, live in simplicity, and daily express what it is to be the church to each other, all being part of our worship to Jesus. However, we did not think it would ever really happen.
Then, we met another couple, Eric and Mira, who had the same dream, except for them it was not only a dream but a plan. Their determination gave us what we needed to believe it would be possible for us, and we decided to join together with them and make it a reality.
It was at this time we began to think God might actually mean for us to strap on our dancing shoes and try out some tentative new moves. It is more exciting than I have the ability to convey here, but it seems like God has us on the move, striving to change our direction, and keeping us planted firm, all at once.
I’ll have more to say about what that means in Part 2.