What would it take to get you out of Chicago? I asked for at least the tenth time in the last two months. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon this past October. My wife sat on the couch, and I sat in our cheap garage sale armchair, and our friend Melinda sat in my grandmother’s giant chair that could have fit three of her, her tattered notebook open on her lap. I had been joking with her most of the summer about moving to Ohio to help us start a church or intentional community but hadn’t held out hope for it to actually become a reality. An hour later we had an answer to my question and a tentative plan to make it happen.
We left our church last summer. We haven’t replaced it yet. We’ve visited some good ones, and we still hope to find one we can attend on a regular basis for worship and to connect to this ancient tradition we can’t seem to shake even when it makes no sense. But we haven’t yet found a community of Jesus followers with whom we feel we can fully live the Christian life in the freedom, honesty, doubt and beauty in which we believe it can and should be lived. For the last four months we’ve been working on a plan to start just such a community.
In October, Melinda will be leaving Chicago and moving into our home here in little old Greenville, Ohio. For a while we will just work on doing life together and adjusting to the new living arrangement before moving forward with anything more involved. For all our book and blog reading, all our planning and list-making, all our scheduled interviews with church leaders and authors from around the country, all our praying, our idea still doesn’t have a definite long-term shape, and that’s not an accident. We want to be flexible and allow for this to develop organically.
Our basic idea is to bring in a few more core members and start an intentional community. We would have meals together and meet weekly for discussion and prayer. Eventually (and again, we are are making no deadlines or inflexible plans), we would like to create a community that would be a safe place for religious outcasts to come and know acceptance and grace and love and freedom, a spiritual triage center for the ecclesiastically disillusioned, the doubters, the questioning, the cynical, the fearful, the sarcastically-defensive-but-can’t-stop-believing, the gay, the straight, the humbly fervent, the sincerely agnostic, the apologetically or unapologetically unbelieving. But for now, it’s just my wife, my daughter, my best friend and I turning off the smooth path we’ve been walking and taking a few simple steps to walk a new one in the name of truth and love and beauty and grace.
In an email a couple months ago Melinda was discussing this project and asked me to regularly remind her we are embracing the crazy. That we aren’t apologizing for doing something unusual, and we aren’t living in fear. We are looking at a crazy means of living the way of Jesus and choosing to embrace it rather than make it safe and normal. You’re weird Lyndie’s sister said when we told her the plan. Yes, yes we are. And we plan to stay that way. And as Embrace is my word for 2012, Embracing the Crazy has become an unofficial mantra as we look ahead.
Over the coming months you will hear plenty about our plans and preparations for October and after. Melinda will be here on the blog a whole bunch to discuss this with me, and I’m pretty sure I can convince Lyndie to join in and share her wisdom and perspective also. I’m about as excited for this plan as I’ve ever been about anything, and I want to share that with you.
As I plan for how to arrange the coming posts and what to be sure to discuss, I would love to hear your specific questions and thoughts on all this. I’d also love to hear your recommendations on favorite books, blogs and sites on intentional community or anything related. And of course, we’d love your prayers. Thanks for reading.