We are a handful of families finding greater fulfillment through participating in an intentional life of cooperation, sustainability and simplicity. Over the years we have been making small steps towards living in increasing consistency with what we believe. We’re learning that meaning and joy are rooted in relationships. When we put our hearts and hands together to learn new skills, work together and serve one-another, our relationships grow deeper and our lives become more meaningful. In fact, many among this cluster of families left high-demand careers in business, education and sports to adopt a simpler lifestyle, rewarded more by success in relationships than by money or fame. To this end, we all chose to school our children at home, as well as work as close to the family and as much with the family as possible. We’re learning new skills such as growing our own food and raising some livestock, making soap and candles, improving our fiber and timber crafts, and above all—learning the skill of cooperation. For this small cluster, our efforts simply amount to “community,” Christian community.
Many people have a desire to live in some form of intentional community and indeed, there are many intentional communities in New Zealand and around the globe. Whether the community is faith-based or not, those involved would live in some form of intentional cooperation and interdependence, enabling them to live lives that would not otherwise be possible as an isolated individual or even as an isolated family. For those of us who now live in the techno-industrial world, it is hard to fathom that a tight-knit community was once the basis of life for many. In most respects, the true interdependence of the pre-industrialized village made close relationships a necessity rather than a preference. For instance, consider the sharing of both physical and human resources that were necessary to clear land, plant and harvest crops and build houses.
In 21st century New Zealand, the land has mostly been broken in, we can buy food at the supermarket and the houses are built for us – so what need is there for interdependent community? In fact, one could legitimately view the “togetherness” experienced in those pioneering times as necessary only because of the lack of technology, mechanization and specialization. In other words, they only needed one another because of the times that they lived in. Even if this was the case for some, we have met too many people who can remember “the good old days” (when relationships seemed to be richer and life had more meaning) to conclude that the interdependence of our forefathers was solely due to an inability to live independent lives. So, we are not intending to reinvent the pioneering lifestyle but we do see the intrinsic value in the “givens” such as cooperation and simplicity that “constrained” our forefathers to live in community. We would add sustainability to their constraints, not only from an environmental perspective but from a relational perspective as well. Essentially, it seems that relationships needed to be strong enough to sustain through times of trial. So, without contriving a “pioneering” situation in the backblocks of the Manawatu to “force” us to live successfully in community, what context for community life holds the best chance for cooperation, simplicity and sustainability? We have found such a context in the vision of intentional, Christian community.
We understand that community as it pertains to human relationships is based on “common unity” in both values and the outworking of those values in day-to-day life. From that understanding, it could be said that the common unity would define the arrangement or form of relationships between the community’s participants. The coming together of individuals into a form of relationships that will endure and bring life is what the Christian faith promises. For us, the form of relationships has already been defined by God, and Christians would spend their entire lives being conformed by God into those relationships with one another in Christ. Stated another way, the church community can become that living form for relationships. And for us, working together in the cafe or on projects, educating our children in our own homes, growing some of our own food, working close to home in craft-based businesses and progressively removing ourselves from consumerism and materialism is providing the context for those relationships to be formed.
We hope that what we’ve briefly shared above, and elsewhere on this site expresses our desire for our faith in Jesus to become so much more than what might be experienced merely on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night. The source of our “common unity,” is found in those foundational convictions that lead us on when we face the next step up the “mountain” in our individual and collective lives. We believe that the God who is love has purposed to express Himself through those that live in faith towards Him and that this expression, or “pressing out” of Jesus’ character could become a tangible reality in the community of the committed. As such, it is our hope that the love and life of Christ might actually become visible through our work, our unity, and simplicity of lifestyle. We know that we’ve only just begun and that there are many more steps to take. Our hope is that the outcome of our steps thus far might encourage others who may be asking the same kinds of questions we once asked about community, faith and meaning.
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