I’m really drawn to the idea of living in close community with others, and have been inspired by Shane Claiborne amongst others to consider this as a serious and radical challenge to change.

This website, of the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, has really challenged me today.

I’m going to quote wholesale from the ‘Common life’ section, because I really like it and see in it elements of spiritual life which are lacking in how I live just now, and which I hunger for.  I hope the community who produce it don’t mind, I would just like to honour and celebrate what is good that I find there.

Common life

Loving one another

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34
We want to live out this commandment which Jesus gave his disciples. Knowing that Christ’s love for us included going to the cross, we expect that loving each other may demand real and costly sacrifice. We love in this way hoping that by doing so “the world may know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). We hope that self-sacrificing love might be one of the most obvious characteristics of our life together. Through loving one another we seek to provide a place where each is well loved, and to draw others to Christ and his church.Some of the concrete ways we seek to love each other include:

  • keeping the commitments expressed in our covenant
  • seeing each other as family
  • delighting in (liking) each other and enjoying time together
  • living in a households
  • encouragement and accountability
  • praying for each other
  • laughing and weeping with each other
  • living out the “one anothers” (honoring, submitting to, encouraging, reverencing, etc.) 
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33
Thanksgiving Retreat with Friends
The good news of the gospel means that we can now join a new social, political, economic and spiritual order. The Church is meant to be that new order. As Westerners deeply trained in the habits of individualism, we have a hard time living into that new order. To help ourselves understand that radical call of God, we sometimes say that “church ought to be the organizing principle of our lives.” Ways we seek to live that out include:

Common Decision Making

  • use of time
  • jobs
  • openness to counsel concerning dating, marriage, and children
  • stability and calls to go elsewhere

Common Time

  • quality time for one another and the church
  • meals
  • calendar
  • meetings

Common space

  • living together
  • common decisions about living arrangements
  • openness to living with who God gives us, and where God puts us

Common Money

“All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44

One of the primary alternative gods in American culture is money. We want put our trust in God rather than in money. Toward that end we commit ourselves to:

  • a spirit of generosity
  • shared finances
  • a similar standard of living
  • helping those in need
Man, does this challenge me! 
  • Common decision making – in a culture which promotes and develops independence this would be a challenging one to adapt to.  I am curious as to how it would work practically, based on the suggested areas it might cover.  How would I take it if I was expected to be ever ready to take the advice and counsel of others in relation to my marriage, or parenting?  These are boundaried areas in our life just now.  I am happy to accept advice when I have asked for it, but they feel like private areas which others are privileged to have insight into.  Yet when I daydream about, for example, living in close community with our small group members and try to get my head around that, I see how it could work, and how valuable it might be.
  • Common time – this I love unreservedly.  I love our small group coming round and hanging out over a meal, I love joining with the larger church to celebrate God’s goodness, and the idea of shared and purposeful time to be together as a community – as well as informal ‘just being in the same place’ gatherings – is very attractive.  But at the moment my time, on a day to day basis, is mine to order as I will.  Living in close community, like a shared house or shared collection of nearby houses, where there would be perhaps daily times to gather would impose some discipline into that.  I’m not that disciplined in many ways, so I guess that could only be a good thing.
  • Common space – at the moment this is the one which on a practical level I am enjoying pondering.  Would everyone have their own private space to retreat to?  How would it work for families, where they (and I mean we!) would need (want?) their own separate bedrooms as well as a shared family space.  So when I am out and about and spy a disused hotel, I find myself thinking “hmmm, plenty of bedrooms but how about living space?  I wonder how it’s divided up inside?” .  There’s a big house for sale down the road from us just now, and it’s far too posh for this kind of thing but I’m still tempted to check out the room divisions to see if it has potential.  And I have seen a smallish slightly shabby looking hotel for sale (or perhaps lease, must pay attention next time I pass it).
  • Common money – the equitableness of this is so attractive.  We had fun at small group talking about the believers in Acts sharing everything, and debating what we would find hardest and easiest to share.  But in the context of a shared house, for example, it makes such sense to share stuff.  Perhaps less cars would be required (or just a big people carrier!).  A shared library of books would liberate duplicate copies for others to benefit from.  To live in this way demands generosity in order for the whole project to work, any other approach would be self-defeating.

So this is what’s on my mind just now.  There are so many communities out there doing this kind of stuff, seeking to honour God and transform their own lives and their surrounding communities by their way of life.  The biggest challenge, the biggest barrier to stepping out and doing this is, well, me.  To contemplate leaving our beloved home, and the community we’ve come to love is at the moment unthinkable.  And yet I’m still so drawn to it.  I can see how making a decision to do this would free up resources and even time to find purposeful ways to serve God, to just spend time alongside those in the surrounding community. 

3 miles an hour might even become an attainable speed limit for living.