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Category Archives: Intentional Communities

Open letter to next St. Louis mayor on crime – St. Louis American

Posted: April 3, 2017 at 8:37 pm

On March 30, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay invited community stakeholders to join area law enforcement to hear the Department of Justice present the Diagnostic Analysis for the City of St. Louis, Missouri. I heard information well known to all and a few new things. At the end of the presentation, recommendations were made comprised of evidence-based outcomes (successful in other communities) and a call for leadership and coordination.

As the DOJ analysis was flashed on the screens, the poorest neighborhoods were the sites for the vast majorities of murder. In the past, the luxury of affluence facilitated the lack of concern for the conditions in other neighborhoods. But individuals are no longer containing their actions to just those neighborhoods. Social media and new attitudes find the gun battles and criminal behavior common to underserved areas now spreading to Busch Stadium, downtown, and on or around our university campuses.

Our city leaders reactions to the consistent reporting of Americas most dangerous city is to whine or deny. Now it is time to say to the nation, Yes, we have a problem, and heres what we are doing about.

If the city does address the crime problem in a holistic way, as laid out by the Department of Justice, potential investors will pick other cities and the businesses we have will leave. Lost investment means lost jobs, lost taxes, lost status and decline for everyone.

St. Louis is the economic engine for our state, a regional giant, but an injured behemoth. Our injuries like most large cities are a combination of globalism, long-standing racial divisions and crime. The fallout of Ferguson put a spotlight on our city and metropolitan area and the perception that our crime problem is growing out of control.

For too long, stable, thriving neighborhoods have felt comfortable in ignoring and thereby enabling other neighbors to become failed states. Current history has clearly demonstrated in Somali, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and now Syria that failed states affect the security and economy of a region.

As the DOJs report pointed out, the elements to reduce our violent crime are present. We need strong, honest leadership that utilizes smart strategic policing; coordinated surges of social services to underserved communities with a focus on being trauma-informed; intentional aesthetic improvements; intentional smart reintegration of ex-offenders to the communities; and presence in those communities.

What I mean by presence is if the mayor shows up in distressed communities, as well as thriving neighborhoods, it shows the residents they care. Many youths interviewed for the DOJ Analysis expressed that no one cares. It is time to prove to all citizens that St. Louis cares that all should do well.

Rev. Rodrick Burton is the pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, vice president of the Ecumenical Leadership Council, member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, and board member of the St. Louis Initiative to Reduce Violence.

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Healthy Community Grants available through Crow Wing Energized – Brainerd Dispatch

Posted: at 8:37 pm

Grant applications to Crow Wing Energized, a community movement led by Essentia Health and Crow Wing County Community Services to improve health and wellness in the community by making healthy choices essential, are being accepted, a news release stated. The first application deadline is April 15.

Organization criteria for applying includes serving or being located within Crow Wing County, including but not limited to: neighborhood, youth or environmental groups; faith-based organizations; health care organizations; civic or citizens' associations; economic development agencies; local government entities; local businesses; school districts and other similar groups. Applicants are not required to be incorporated 501(c)3 organizations.

Applicant projects need to align with the Crow Wing Energized guiding principles as well as Minnesota Department of Health Statewide Health Improvement Partnership's financial guide:

Creating and sustaining a united approach to improving health and wellness in Crow Wing County

Collaborating towards solutions with multiple stakeholders (e.g. schools, worksites, medical centers) to improve community engagement and commitment focused on improving community health

Being anchored in evidence based efforts around greatest community good that can be achieved through available resources.

The Healthy Community Grants are made available through SHIP funding that was awarded to Crow Wing Energized. Grant applications are reviewed by the Crow Wing Energized community leadership team and goal groups:

The healthy choices goal group develops sustainable strategies and encourages healthy choices by increasing access to healthy foods, increasing active living opportunities and helping to promote and support the healthy environments.

The mental fitness goal group encourages and equips citizens in achieving and maintaining mental fitness by building networks throughout the county for achieving resilience, increasing the practice of intentional choices to help reduce stress and anxiety and educating communities to increase the knowledge of mental fitness so it will help to make positive choices regarding their overall health.

The workplace wellness goal group helps to create a healthy and energized workforce by increasing employee satisfaction, maximizing productivity, minimizing absenteeism and helping to reduce health care costs.

For a Healthy Community Grant Application visit and click on "Resources," or to learn more about Crow Wing Energized and what its community partners are currently doing, contact Cassie Carey, Crow Wing Energized coordinator, at or 218-828-7443.

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Weekend: Teach your children the value of doing service – The Courier

Posted: April 2, 2017 at 8:18 am

By CASSIE ANDERSON Teaching youth to give time and talent is a step in their personal development. Developmentally, children are very focused on their individual needs and less so on the world around them. Introducing the concept of service and philanthropy to a youth is a long-term gift to the child. For example, simply giving a coin from their own piggy bank to the offering plate at Sunday school can plant the seeds of philanthropy in younger children. In the Sunday school example, just giving the child a coin to donate does not teach the whole lesson. Being intentional with children, explaining why it is important to give back is what makes learning about service begin to stick. In the family dynamic, utilizing teachable moments about service is a great way to help youth learn. A parent or adult picking up some trash in the community role models a positive behavior to the child. Simple lessons, role modeling and talking to children about why it is important to do service will help develop the kind of adults we need in our communities. With the proper encouragement, children can be very giving and thoughtful of others. Head, heart, hands and health make up the Hs in 4-H. Youth development in 4-H is based around working toward a well-rounded child. 4-H clubs and other youth organizations have service components as part of the organization. Research conducted by Tufts University has concluded that youth in 4-H are more inclined to participate in service and continue doing so as adults. What the research has found is being demonstrated again and again through Ohio 4-H. Youth given the proper challenge and reason to care will stand up and support their communities. In Highland County, a young 4-H member has started her own fundraising program called U Can to raise funds for Highland County 4-H when the Extension program funding was cut. By collecting and recycling aluminum within her community and getting other clubs to help, over $13,000 was raised. A 4-H family recently lost their home in a fire. They have received an outpouring of assistance from youth and others in the community. Every year, 4-H families and clubs perform beautification projects, conduct drives for needed supplies, adopt families in need, make and donate items, and much more. Taking time to make a difference in the community is part of 4-H. Positive youth development happens with learning by doing; its a key point in any childs development. Getting your family involved in community service is one way to help your child grow and become a contributing citizen. Getting children to start practicing service while young is a gift that will keep paying forward to your child and the community. There are many resources and organizations out there that need help or will help you provide service opportunities for your family. The United Way, Scouts, 4-H, Camp Fire Northwest Ohio, religious youth groups, and the schools are all great places to find resources on how to get your family involved. Anderson is an Ohio State University Extension educator for 4-H youth development.


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Jason Micheli Reviews The Fitch Option – Patheos (blog)

Posted: at 8:18 am

Jason Micheli is the author of Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage Serious Chemo. Hes a United Methodist in Alexandria, Va, blogs, and hosts the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast.

How Resident Aliens Live: Or, the Fitch Option

David Fitchs Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission

On Ash Wednesday I suffered my monthly battery of labs and oncological consultation in advance of my day of maintenance chemo. During the consult, after feeling me up for lumps and red flags, my doctor flipped over a baby blue hued box of latex gloves and illustrated the standard deviation of years until relapse for my particular flavor of incurable cancer. I wrote a book calledCancer is Funnybut it didnt feel very funny looking at the bell curve of the time Ive likely got until I make good on the promise that begins every Lenten season: To dust you shall return.

Leaving my oncologists office, I drove to the hospital to visit a parishioner. Hes about my age with a boy about my boys age. He got cancer a bit before I did. He thought he was in the clear and now it doesnt look like it will end well. The palliative care doctor was speaking with him when I stepped through the clear, sliding ICU door. After the doctor left our first bits of conversation were interrupted by a social worker bringing with her dissonant grin a workbook, a fill-in-the-blank sort that he can use to insure that his boy knows who his dad was. We were interrupted again only moments after she left by the chaplain, dressed like an old school undertaker, offering ashes to us without explanation. It was easier for both of us to nod our heads and receive the gritty, oily shadow of a cross. Remember, he whispered, to dust you came and to dust you shall return.

As if the truth that none of us is getting out of life alive wasnt already palpably felt between us.

The chaplain stepped over the tubes draped off the bed and left as quickly as hed come. I sat next to the bed. I know from both from my training as a pastor and my experience as a patient, my job was neither to fix his feelings of despair nor to protect God from them. It certainly wasnt to dump on to him the baggage Id brought from my doctors office.

I listened. I touched and embraced him. I met his eyes and accepted the tears welling in my own. Mostly, I sat and kept the silence as though we were adoring the host.

I was present to him, with him, buoyed in the confidence that in this discipline of being present with him, naked and afraid- certainly one of whom Jesus calls the least among us, Christ was with us too, present in an almost tangible way that augers a permanent presence God will perfect in the fullness of time.

Heres a question for the clergy types out there and, even, for ordinary non-pensioned Christians:

The confidence I have in the practice of being present in a hospital room, the trust I have that through the practice of presence Christ is present, why does it not extend to the other disciplines Jesus has given us?

Why is it that in the hospital room Im content to be present, faithfully, and trust Jesus to show, yet everywhere else in my ministry I run (until I drop) on the unexamined assumption that its up to me to change my parishioners lives and then, with them, to change the world?

I trust Jesus not to be AWOL in the cancer ward but otherwise I typically operate as if God is the object of a curriculum program (for which Im always scrambling to find the latest, shiniest product in the Cokesbury catalog) rather than the active agent in the world who calls us to participate with him and to do so not through the latest thematic teaching series but through the concrete practices he gave to us. Its an assumption that in trying to conform people to Christ leaves them consumers instead and leaves me exhausted.

Taking his title from the coda of James Davidson Hunters significant bookTo Change the World, inFaithful PresenceDavid Fitch unpacks the communal Christian disciplines by which God changes the world.

Whereas Fitch worries that James Davidson Hunters faithful presence proposal too easily becomes a prescription for individuals embodying the faith in the hopes of transforming culture, thereby underwriting the privatization and loneliness of the culture, Fitch notes how Hunter also misses, as perhaps a sociologist must, that we are not the active agents of mission.

InFaithful Presence, Fitch makes explicit that God is the subject of Christian speech; mission and transformation- theyre what God does.

Faithful presence then names a set of practices of the community but, more foundational, it names aparticipationin what the Living God is doing antecedent to us. Continuing the premise ofProdigal Christianity, where God the Son forsakes his inheritance to venture out into the Far Country that we call the sinful world in order to return all that belongs to the Father back to the Father, Fitch exposes the anthropological assumptions lurking behind how we conceive of the practices of the Church. They are not our means to God, for, in good Barthian fashion, scripture does not narrate our journey to God but Gods relentless journey to us. Nor do the practices simply equip us to engage in mission as though the mission was our mission. Rather the practices of the Church are the means God in Christ has given to us to locate God at work in the world and to join with God in what God is doing in the world. As Fitch writes, the practice of faithful presence is only intelligible because God is present in the world and God uses a People faithful to his presence to make himself concrete. Gods presence in the world, Fitch adds, cannot be apprehended generally or without mediation.

Fitchs emphasis on the disciplines echoes a bit with James KA SmithsYou Are What You Love. in that both authors lament the degree to whichGodin the Enlightenment got relegated to an idea or a belief in the individuals head. Smith attempts a recovery of the practices of the faith because our formation comes through habituation not information. While Fitch would no doubt concur with Smith about the Enlightenments reductionism of discipleship to belief, the practices for Fitch are not merely habits to form us in our faith. They are the promised locations in which Christ is present with us and through which Christ changes the world. As Fitch notes, the Great Commission itself not only promises that Christ will be present to his people (I am with you always) the charge to make disciples of all nations assumes disciplines by which will be present to form disciples. The disciplines, as Fitch identifies them, bear resonances with the Catholic sacraments:

The Discipline of the Lords Table

The Discipline of Reconciliation

The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel

The Discipline of Being with the Least of These

The Discipline of Being with Children

The Discipline of the Fivefold Gifting

The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer

IfFaithful Presencestopped there it would be a helpful theological corrective to how we treat the disciplines, reminding us theyre vessels of Gods activity not our mediums to God, but it would not enliven Christian imagination to broaden what we mean by engaging in Gods mission.

The unique contribution Fitch makes inFaithful Presenceis arguing that each of these disciplines given to us by Christ have three interrelated and complimentary manifestations in the social spaces of our lives.

Precisely because God is the active agent of mission, on the move in the world, these disciplines should likewise force us to be on the move in a dynamic that avoids the familiar Sunday to Monday, in here-out there connection that bedevils Christians. Fitch denotes these spaces by illustrating three circles: a closed circle. a dotted circle, and a semi-circle. The closed circles represents the social space of the church. The dotted circle is an extension of the church, our friends and neighbors; like the closed circle, committed Christians still comprise the dotted circle but the dots show how this social space makes room for strangers and seekers too. The semi-circle meanwhile is what we might refer to as a third space where Christians go into the world, into their community, as a guest.

In the case of the Eucharist, for example, the closed circle is obviously the celebration of the sacrament during gathered worship. Because God is on the move, the presence of Christ in the sacramental table extends into the community so that, in the dotted circle, a Christian leader hosts friends, committed and curious, at a table in their home and, over food and wine, they pray together, make themselves vulnerable to one another, discern Gods word, and submit aspects of their lives to the lordship of Christ. Finally, in the semi-circle, the mutual vulnerability at table gets extended out into the community where the Christian is not the host but risks being the guest of neighbors and unbelievers. As Christ is present at the ornate lacquered table in the sanctuary, Christ is present at this profane table too, at work to nurture all that is the Fathers back to him.

I taught a PDF version ofFaithful Presenceto a group of local pastors at Wesley Seminary last summer for a two week course on mission.

In my own United Methodist tradition, mission has gotten redefined as good (social justice) work someone else does, be it the denominational apparatus or the credentialed missionaries funded by it. Not only does this demote our denominational connection to a funding relationship, it disempowers local churches fromdiscerning where God is at work in their local communities. Rather than three increasingly widened circles through which we extend presence, it assumes only two closed circles, the local church celebrating the sacraments and the global church doing good works. Its an arrangement that encourages maintenance mode ministry, which in a post-Christian culture necessarily leads to exhaustion. Whats more, it leaves pastors ill-equipped to extend the disciplines into their homes and community.

Every pair of eyes in the classroom popped open as they begin to revision their ministry, asking what it would be like for them to gather neighbors and community members around the dotted circle of their table, trusting that Christ will be there to call people over time into submission to him. The possibilities multiplied for them as they applied these three social spaces to the other disciplines in Fitchs book. And, it should be noted, these local pastors all served small congregations. The conventional way of construing mission had only disempowered and discouraged them that churches their size could not meaningfullydomission. They could neither send lots of money to the denomination nor could they execute expensive, volunteer-heavy mission projects for the less fortunate.

In the same way the limitations of a small canvas can provoke the most creative art, Fitchs explication of these particular disciplines extended across the ordinary social spaces of their lives exploded imaginative possibilities for their ministries.

As much as Christ is present in and through a funded missionary in Cambodia, they realized, Christ is present when they sit with someone like me in the hospital room. If God is the active agent of mission and not us, then its silly to distinguish between real mission and ordinary practices like breaking bread and forgiving sin.

As a preacher, I thinkFaithful Presenceis worth the read just for the theological framework. Our Christian speech needs reminding always that God is the agent not us.

As a pastor, I believeFaithful Presenceis exactly the sort of manual that maintenance modeled mainline churches need in order to learn how to engage with Christ in their post-Christian contexts. In many ways,Faithful Presenceis the handbook for how resident aliens live. It offers the praxis Stanley Hauerwas sequel toResident Aliensnever quite managed to flesh out.

As a closet Anabaptist, however, Im left with a question.

Id like to see Fitch engage howFaithful Presenceinteracts with John Nugents equally good bookEndangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church.While agreeing with Fitch that God is prodigally at work in the world, my reading of Nugent makes me wonder if Fitch has made the Church too instrumental and not a good and an end in and of itself; that is, is the Church the means through which God is changing the world or, as Nugent argues, is the Church the change, the better place, God has already made in the world?

While I hope to see future engagement between Fitchs and Nugents complementary work, I suspect FitchsFaithful Presenceis a needed companion to another book in everyones queue at present, Rod DrehersThe Benedict Option.

Dreher sees Western culture as lost and, in the wake of the Obergefell decision, antithetical to it. In the light of this development, Dreher recommends Christians imitate the witness of St. Benedict of Nursia, retreating into disciplined enclaves of like-minded, like-valued Christians in order to weather a new dark age.

Despite my sympathies for Drehers proposal, I think theBenedict Optionmay be a curious option to commend to Christians in this moment because, in fact, St. Benedict was not retreating from culture. Rather, he was also safeguarding the best contributions of elite and secular culture during the dark ages. Benedict helped change the world not simply by retreating from it, as Dreher suggests, but by preserving the best contributions of culture-makers. St. Benedict, then, corroborates James Davidson Hunters thesis that culture is changed only from the top down, from the culture-makers outward to the culture-consumers.

I believe FitchsFaithful Presenceoffers a middle way between the concerns of Rod DrehersBenedict Optionabout Christians now living as strangers in a strange land, on the one hand, and Hunters argument, on the other, about how cultures undergo transformation through its culture makers. In particular, Fitchs 3 Circles of faithful presence provide Christians with a more balanced rhythm of gathering in disciplined, intentional community with other Christians, for the sort of formation and preservation Dreher seeks, but also venturing out into networks of friendships and neighborhoods to join in what God is already doing among them.

What Fitch helps us remember, even Dreher, is that discipleship is not only about practices, which can be preserved and practiced apart from culture, it is as much about participation too.

With God.

The agency of God is perhaps the fatal flaw in Drehers book for he forgets, or neglects to make clear, that God is active in the world (a world Dreher would characterize as lost to the Church) apart from the Church and God is waiting for the Church, who are Gods sent People, to join him in his work.

Because so many now are discussing the latter book, I cannot recommend the former with heartier enthusiasm.

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The Road To Healing: Healthy Schools Create Healthy Communities – Northdallasgazette

Posted: March 31, 2017 at 7:28 am

Growing up as an immigrant in Hells Kitchen, on the West Side of New York City, the odds of Jaime Casap making it out of his hometown alive, much less being successful in life, were long.

Born in Argentina to a single mother, he wasnt exactly living the American Dream between the days spent on welfare and those in which he was either witnessing violence on the streets or attending the funeral of a friend. Casap, like millions of children trapped in communities of poverty and crime, needed a vehicle to get to a better life. He found the keys to that ride in education.

Casaps story is one of many stories of hope in the book Humanizing the Education Machine, co-authored by Bill Latham, CEO of MeTEOR Education ( Among other key themes, the book explores beating odds often created by a childs ZIP code in the American education system. Not only did Casap escape Hells Kitchen, he has gone on to become Googles Global Education Evangelist, where he has been a consummate advocate for leveling the playing field in communities through an education that leverages digital technologies.

It is no small task to set someone on a different path that comes from this kind of background. It takes a spirit of connection between students, faculty and teachers, and a shift in attitude to help other students overcome their ZIP codes. However, as changes begin in the schools, the entire community benefits from the transformation.

Gone are the days that schools are simply a place to go and receive content that prepares a student for life.

If school officials want to be relevant in a world that has rapidly moved from Gutenberg to Google, they will have to ask themselves what their value proposition will be in a content abundant world, Latham notes. They are going to have to transform their practices If they are going to continue to receive future permission from parents to educate their children.

Some of the keys to laddering up schools into thriving community schools are presented through the research and journey of the K-12 Mindshift team that produced the Humanize book. A few of the major themes the book explores are:

Setting cultures and strategies that align with the particular needs of learning communities. More than 15 million children in the United States are living below the poverty line, often told they dont have a chance. Latham points to the tremendous mindshare these students devote to basic needs, safety and security. Strategies that focus on their social and emotional literacy as well as resilience help such children persevere and emerge from such conditions with a brighter future. Working to re-engage social capital with teachers, parents and the community at large. The resources needed for transformative learning experiences for students are often found sitting on the sidelines in communities because of falling trust in the effectiveness of the schools current strategies. Schools must become intentional about engaging their community and giving them clear insight into how they are going to ensure students are succeeding. Understanding the direct connection between engaging learning experiences and the student having a hopeful view of the future. Because of the environment that they live in, many kids show up to school each day without a chance of learning a thing. Because they are homeless, their parents sell drugs or they are constantly faced with violence, their brains are on survival mode fight or flight. They are always on alert, thus the brain has shut down all non-essential functions like learning.

Teachers learn that kids bring their pain to class, Latham says. They also realize that nothing in their training prepares them for the pain. By understanding and embracing the relational role of the teachers, we will create a safe environment for their students, and begin to lay the foundation for a more resilient, hopeful learner as they emerge into their future.

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New director discusses CISR’s role in community | COMMENTARY – Renton Reporter

Posted: at 7:28 am

All students can learn and achieve at high levels if they are given the opportunity and the support they need. This belief is the foundation to the mission of Communities in Schools of Renton (CISR), which I am so honored to be a part of. As the new Executive Director, I know I am part of something really special in the Renton community where I have lived for the past 18 years a very generous community dedicated to supporting our youth.

I have a passion for equity and am committed to working toward fairness and opportunities for all. I look forward to utilizing my 12 years of non-profit leadership experience serving youth and families along with my Masters in Education with an emphasis in Transformational Leadership to help build the next generation of CISR.

Id like to share a little about what we do at CISR. We are part of the nations leading dropout prevention organization. We work in 8 Renton School District elementary schools, the 3 middle schools and Renton High School coordinating a comprehensive range of services to address the academic and non-academic needs of at-risk, economically disadvantaged students so they come to school ready to learn. Many of the students we serve are facing significant challenges both inside and outside of the classroom as 90% of them live in poverty.

This past month with my new team, Ive been thinking a lot about what can be and how we can deliver even more powerful results for our youth. At our Annual Benefit Dinner a couple weeks ago, I shared that through a collaborative development, we will build a bridge from the present to the future.

There are 3 interrelated areas which will guide our efforts.

The first being community engagement. We will increase the level of community awareness, involvement and advocacy to strengthen the collective impact within our community.

The second is resource development, which will be an intentional plan focused on increasing our awareness of opportunities and taking steps to engage and cultivate individuals and businesses who share our passion for this work.

Finally, we will ensure operational and strategic alignment in order to best support the changing student population and the community needs by being nimble and flexible to our service delivery model. Focusing on these 3 areas, will result in impact expansion. By formulating strategies to put this vision into action and by acting together in new and powerful ways we can have more of a collective impact for our students.

If youd like to learn more or just to chat, Id love to hear from you: or 425.430.6656.

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The Fellowship for Intentional Community Announces the Release … – PR Web (press release)

Posted: March 29, 2017 at 11:40 am

When people ask me where to move to escape climate change, I tell them there's no escape and that the thing to look for is a strong community. This book explains how to build that kind of community anywhere." - Bill McKibben, Founder of

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) March 29, 2017

TEDx speaker and longtime sustainable community activist Maikwe Ludwig will be releasing her new book on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. Ludwig will then be available for speaking engagements all over the country, talking about climate disruption, intentional communities, legal and economic reform, and the development of cooperative culture.

Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet and founder of the climate change organization says, When people ask me where to move to escape climate change, I tell them there's no escape and that the thing to look for is a strong community. This book explains how to build that kind of community anywhereit's a manual for the future."

The basis of this new book is the two decades that Ludwig has lived in residential intentional communities, and learning the deep skills of cooperation. Intentional communities are groups of people who live together based on common values and purposes. The Fellowship for Intentional Communitys online directory lists over 1,300 such groups, ranging from student co-ops and ecovillages to monasteries and upscale cohousing communities.

The book also takes on predatory capitalism and systems of oppression, according to the author. We cant really solve the climate crisis without looking at how we are organized socially and economically. The book includes a whole chapter on legal and economic reform, and that chapter is just as essential as the one on starting a community, said Ludwig from her home in Laramie, WY. My basic premise is that the US cultural tendency toward isolation and hyper-consumerism is a large portion of how weve gotten ourselves into this mess. The solutions need to happen on just as many levels: cultural, economic, personal and social.

Dr. Chong Kee Tan, the founder of the alternative currency system in California called Bay Bucks, agrees. "Is it possible to jettison our current system of exploitation and environmental destruction, and create a new system, that is not only sustainable but affords us a comfortable and fulfilling life? [This book] reminds us how the way is fraught with challenges and shows us how to conquer them."

The book also profiles two US intentional communities in terms of their carbon footprints, livability and economic security for their members: Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri, and Twin Oaks Community in Virginia. Ludwigs 2013 TEDx Talk, titled, "Sustainable Is PossibleAnd It Doesnt Suck!," focused on Dancing Rabbit as a model low consumption community.

This national speaking tour will be Ludwigs second. In 2015, when she was the Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture, she spent 6 months on the road. That tour provided the opportunity to develop a portion of the material in the new book.

The book is currently available in two ways: participation in the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (which results in the book getting to people about a week before the public release, and being acknowledged in the book, for anyone who participates by April 1), and by ordering through the Fellowships website.

View the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign:

Inquiries about speaking tour stops, or interview requests for Maikwe Ludwig can be made by emailing Mariyam Medovaya, the Tour Coordinator, at climatetour[at]

About the Fellowship for Intentional Community: FICs mission is to support and promote the development of intentional communities and the evolution of cooperative culture. FIC publishes Communities magazine, and the Communities Directory (both online and in print), and offers a range of services and other publications to support communities forming and thriving. We also regularly work with researchers and the press to make sure accurate information is available about the communities movement.

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Arkansas Community Foundation and CFO learn from each other at Springfield-based event – Springfield News-Leader

Posted: at 11:40 am

Louise Knauer, For the News-Leader 6:02 a.m. CT March 28, 2017

Community Foundation of the Ozarks(Photo: File Photo)

While we have plenty of interaction with other nonprofits in our region, we dont have an actual peer-to-peer network here for what we do. Its intentional for community foundations to function as anchors for specific geographic areas.

So, it was great to host the whole staff of the Arkansas Community Foundation in Springfield this month. The Little Rock-based ACF central office of about 14, very similar to our size, came to Springfield for a staff retreat. (For all but one, this was the first time theyd made it north of Branson.)

They were specifically interested in our disaster recovery work in Joplin and other communities and we each met with our counterparts to talk about how we do our jobs.

The ACF is a statewide foundation with 27 affiliate foundations that operate very prescriptively and have part-time staff in addition to central office support. The Community Foundation of the Ozarks serves about two-thirds of Missouri geographically with 49 affiliates, but ours are all volunteer-led with their own governance under our umbrella.

They direct a lot of their grantmaking through donor-advised funds where donors recommend how charitable dollars are spent. We also have generous donor advisors, but a significant portion of our grantmaking uses discretionary funds where volunteer community leaders consider competitive applications.

We are absorbing insights from their recent efforts to streamline scholarship applications from the applicants user experience through back-office record-keeping.

And were both preparing for large online giving days that are similar in concept, but different in execution. The ACF opens its Arkansas Gives day to any nonprofit across the state and will have some 900 participating on April 6. The CFO will host Give Ozarks Day on May 9 as a value-added service for nonprofits that hold funds with us; more than 225 will participate. We felt sure wed be equally exhausted in the days that follow!

And we all got a good chuckle about the predominance of women, which is typical in the nonprofit world. Their lone male accompanied all his female colleagues here, which made our four male staff members express their empathy.

The visit underscored one of CFO President Brian Fogles favorite aphorisms about community foundations; that when youve seen one, youve seen one. It was just so nice to talk to people of kindred spirits, he said.

Louise Knauer is Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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Arkansas Community Foundation and CFO learn from each other at Springfield-based event - Springfield News-Leader

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The Benedict Option Can’t Save Your Faith Or Family – The Federalist

Posted: at 11:40 am

Id been grinding my own wheat flour for two years by the time I read Rod Drehers Crunchy Cons in 2006. A friend had given it to me because of my, shall we say, Benedict Option lifestyle. Winter red wheat berries are the best for bread baking, while the soft white ones produce a fine, velvety pastry floura tip for those interested in that route.

Life is a tale told through talk, taste, and touch. It is memory and destiny at once. A Christian might say it is death and resurrection, if you give your life you keep it. So before we get to Drehers new book, The Benedict Option, let me a little of my story.

Watching the President Clinton impeachment trial years ago changed my life. Sensing a call to do what I could for my country, I let go of my dreams of a quiet life in academia and went off to law school. I sought out mentoring by great constitutional law professors so I would eventually contribute to bringing the judiciary back to constitutional originalism.

By the time I was in my second year in law school, my life was unravelling. Law school is brutal. It is even more so for those who are married with families. Our culture can be a meat grinder, and battling it in the front lines of federal courts is even bloodier. I couldnt have it all, and I couldnt do it all. So I chose my family. This began a trajectory of increasing retreat and insularity that would lead to me (religiously) grinding my own wheat and policing my childrens speech for what I deemed to be affirmations of worldly popular culture.

The Benedict Option rightly tells the reader there is no salvation in politics, our culture has morally collapsed, and Christians have amalgamated their faith with American popular culture. Dreher believes American Christians only viable choice is what he has dubbed the Benedict Option. He uses the monastic Benedictine spirituality and way of life as a prescriptive template for all Christians.

This includes such measures as: stable local living in small intentional Christian communitiesthe Christian village; cutting back on pop culture consumption; orienting the family towards God; creating sacramentally vibrant worship; pulling the kids out of public school and educating them classically either through private school, home school, or co-op; practicing hospitality and Christian neighborliness; buying from other Christians even if it costs more; building Christian employment networks; refusing to compromise to satisfy the whims of the young; fighting pornographythe list goes on. In short: avoid vice, and take up virtue.

It sounds nice on the surface, but thats not how it often works out in practice. This option, no matter what you call it, leads to gospel amnesia, not to a flourishing Christian culture.

Soon after I left law school, I had our third baby, and we moved so my husband would not need to drive 70 miles through Los Angeles traffic to work. We changed denominations from a nominally conservative but doctrinally thin Protestantism to a more explicitly Reformed Calvinism. I did what is natural for a person who wakes up to the fact that she has neglected something preciousI overcorrected.

While learning about Reformed theology, we were introduced to the writings of pastors who were putting forth a very similar vision to the one Dreher offers in his book, though none called it the Benedict Option at the time. Sometimes it was referred to as communities of like-minded Christians, or as one communitys motto had it, Simple, Separate, and Deliberate.

Some had ties to neo-agrarianism. Many of the leaders we read had ties to the classical Christian education movement. Generally it went under different names depending on the pastor and community. Some even had created successful ministries, companies that sold products aimed primarily at home schooling parents and celebrating a life outside of twenty-first-century American culture.

We were in our early thirties. We wanted a faith for us and our children that could withstand the cultures battering, intellectual and otherwise. Ultimately, our faith in such methods, and our journey in and out of this Benedict Option, exhausted our faith and estranged one of our children. I do not hold a blanket resistance against Christians building strong robust churches and communities, but this method is inherently flawed. It weakens rather than builds.

We were particularly captivated by two of these Benedict-like communities, both deliberately founded in smallish cities in rural states with easy access to land for member families. We listened to recordings of their pastors and preeminent community members espousing the glories of life together in their churches and neighborhoods. We were hooked. We were convinced we had to go this route to survive degenerated American culture and raise godly children.

This was part of the impetus that drove us to flee Southern California, not to join one of these seemingly exemplary Benedict-like communities, but to at least be closer to other sympathizers, to join a community that affirmed the same creed and stood in solidarity with the brave agrarian vanguard of authentic Christianity. This was conveniently facilitated by the leaders of these exemplary communities having founded their own Protestant denominations, whose member churches could easily be identified online.

So for a time we found our solidarity and quasi-Benedictine community in this little corner of Christendom, but didnt yet realize what a little corner it was. Church authority was held in high regard, but it gradually became clear that few could agree on what that meant. Everyone (inspired by genuine Christian motives, I concede) believed a countercultural lifestyle was of primary importance. This left matters of church governance to be of secondary importance at best, and through a series of events, the church and community fell apart.

Ours wasnt the only Benedict-like community to suffer such a fate. Several of the exemplary communities we had looked up to unraveled to various degrees within the same decade. Verbal, ecclesiastical, and sometimes criminal charges of abuse, whisper campaigns, and blogosphere broadsides weakened the abilities of these communities not only to be lights to the world, but to serve their own members and families.

That leads me to my critique. Many of the families who come together to form these communities believe they are being obedient to God or purer in faith. But what begins as a good desire turns into a measuring rod. Families begin comparing themselves to one another and to those outside the community. Who can be more rigorous, and hence more faithful? Soon these judgments begin to build a wall that insulates those inside the community from the world outside. One sees a rise in authoritarian behavior, paranoia, and an insular mindset. It even distanced families in the community from kin who were not.

Those joining must soon be able to show they can check off the righteousness boxes. Sure, anyone can repent and believe the gospel, but can you live without both cable and Netflix? Can you homeschool your eight kids, including the 10-year-old special-needs son, without institutional involvement? Can you all show up twice a week to choir practice?

Can you derive an income for your household without taint from large immoral corporations or (gasp) government employment? Can you source at least half your familys food from your own garden, pasture, and henhouse? Because the Smiths can. And the Joneses. And the Johnsons. And they are righteous. Not sure if you are. Welcome to the community.

What begins as a good desire turns into a measuring rod.

This process diminishes the gospel, reducing it to a set of propositions one assents to, but what rises to primary importance is the list of distinctives. Distinctives are qualities the people of that community hold to be signs of faithfulness and Christian maturation. For some communities home schooling becomes one of the most important signs of a familys obedience to God. In other communities it was agrarian living, still others it was classical education, or liturgical church worship. Every community had a slightly different ordering of these distinctives. But they all had them; they were the Benedict rule for that community.

If you had asked me back then to name the most important thing in life, I would have responded with: Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, and strength. Everyone would have answered the same way. No one would have said: home schooling, or four-part harmony singing, or anything else. But if you probed further and asked what does loving God mean, people would have responded with these distinctives. These were envisioned as necessary derivatives of Love the Lord your God.

To be sure, the God of the Bible does give us commands, and does tell us what loving him should look like. But these secondary and tertiary components begin quickly to undermine and overwhelm the primacy of what God actually says. This is my next point: it doesnt take long for these communities to begin elevating non-salvific distinctives to a place of primary importance.

In The Benedict Option Dreher tries to say things like dont make family an idol, reach across church boundaries to build relationships, dont idolize the community, and so on. But it reads as an Oh, by the way, just look out for this.

I found this perplexing for several reasons: One, if you write a book suggesting to people that the most viable Christian way forward is to unite in small communities and live faithful Christian lives, and if youve taken the time to see the ways its been done and failed (as I know he has on his blog), you should take the time to mount an honest counter argument against your proposal. You should present it to readers, then show how your ideas are different from those that have been tried and failed or been riddled with heinous sin.

You should show how your ideas are different from those that have been tried and failed or been riddled with heinous sin.

Its very curious that Dreher doesnt mention the various Benedict Option communities that exist or have existed in the recent past and have been hampered by error, spiritual abuse, physical and sexual abuse, pettiness, and the like. Its not that Dreher doesnt know about these communities. He even exchanged several public blog post arguments with the pastor of an Idaho community who harbored a sexual child molester and helped get him married off, all while using his clerical platform to minimize the crimes and vilify the abusers victims. So why would Dreher not give space in a 244-page book to the empirical problems of actual intentional Christian communities?

Dreher gives only two mild examples of a Benedict option community not turning out well, but when read in the greater context of the book, you walk away thinking they were minimized, and that a general warning is enough to not fall into the ditch. The two counter points he gives are on page 129, and page 139 (in the galley copy). On page 129 he tells of a conversation with a high school senior he calls an agonized young atheist. She talks of her paranoid parents and gives this warning: I wish you good luck with the Benedict Option, she told me. But please tell parents that if they want their kids to stay Christian, not to do what mine did. They smothered us and made us into rebels.

If you had told me back then that I was being austere, I would have mocked your superficial, Christian lite ideas.

To his credit Dreher does say on that same page, It sometimes happens that mothers and fathers think theyre serving God by their austere discipline but in fact are driving their children away from Him.

Right, but the fact is that most parents in the midst of such communities (I include myself in this criticism) do not realize they are being austere, because in those communities with the parent peer pressure toward producing godly children austere just looks like greater faithfulness. And which parent in those communities doesnt want to be more faithful?

If you had told me back then that I was being austere (as my parents tried to warn me) with my children, I would have mocked your superficial, Christian lite ideas. You would have gotten an earfull, and three-quarters of Drehers 2017 arguments would have been spewing out of my mouth way back when the Benedict Option wasnt even a glimmer in anyones eyes. Sure enough, we lost a child to those ideas and way of life.

America has a history of such utopian communities, more often than not separating themselves to be Christian in a distinct way from the surrounding culture. In a way, the Puritans who landed in New England were taking the Benedict Option, although they were anti-Catholic. One can still say that their goal was to build a community of faithful believers and raise their children in the faith.

History does not indicate that forming such family communitieseven intentionally Christian onesresults in any kind of ark of preservation in a turbulent culture.

But we know the tragic end of the Puritans, their faith and doctrine degenerating into Unitarian universalism fewer than four generations from landing at Plymouth Rock. History does not indicate that forming such family communitieseven intentionally Christian onesresults in any kind of ark of preservation in a turbulent culture.

Dreher has written that he is not suggesting any utopian community or a retreat from the world. Its true, he doesnt outright call for it. This only heightens the dissonance in the mind of the reader, because his qualifications come amid the explicitly monastic titular metaphor and his repeated cherry-picked glowing descriptions of such communities, which are in practice quasi utopian and retreatist.

Dreher does give some warnings to his readers: If you isolate yourself, you will become weird, Father Marc continued. It is a tricky balance between allowing freedom and openness on the one hand, and maintaining a community identity on the other. The idea of community itself should not be allowed to become an idol.

Dreher states: Communities that are wrapped too tight for fear of impurity will suffocate their members and strangle the joy out of life together. Ideology is the enemy of joyful community life, and the most destructive ideology is the belief that creating utopia is possible.

Those warnings are good, but what Dreher gives with one hand he takes away with the other. Later in the book he waxes poetic:

We live liturgically, telling our sacred Story in worship and song. We fast and we feast. We marry and give our children in marriage, and though in exile, we work for the peace of the city. We welcome our newborns and bury our dead. We read the Bible, and we tell our children about the saints. And we also tell them in the orchard and by the fireside about Odysseus, Achilles, and Aeneas, of Dante and Don Quixote, and Frodo and Gandalf, and all the tales that bear what it means to be men and women of the West.

We work, we pray, we confess our sins, we show mercy, we welcome the stranger, and we keep the commandments. When we suffer, especially for Christs sake, we give thanks, because that is what Christians do. Who knows what God, in turn, will do with our faithfulness?

How exactly is this not utopian? For a serious-minded Christian this sounds like heaven on earth. It certainly sounds wonderful to me.

The problem is not that Dreher recommends Christians live faithful, sacramental lives. There are inherent anti-cultural elements to such living, but those elements are not problematic in the ways these intentional communities of like-minded Christians are. I am all for, and our family indeed practices, faithful sacramental behaviors. We think through the decisions we make for our family, for the education of our children, and for our spiritual maturity. These are not the issue; but these are not the Benedict Option. If that is all Dreher means, then he should not have used a phrase that presupposes certain things.

The reader is left confused because Dreher hints this is all the Benedict option is, living a faithful Christian life. At one point he quotes a writer, Leah Libresco, saying: People are like, This Benedict Option thing, its just being Christian, right? And Im like, Yes! Youve figured out the koan! Libresco told me. But people wont do it unless you call it something different. Its just the church being what the church is supposed to be, but if you give it a name, that makes people care.

One of the fair criticisms Dreher levels against modern Christians is that they are consumerists who fall for gimmicks and marketing. But it seems he is perfectly willing to use the method he decries to sell an idea to Christians. If thats all this is, then The Benedict Option is a ruse.

I understand the longing for what Dreher describes in the Benedict Option. I still ache for it. There are ways to strengthen the family, to establish faithful churches, and to build a robust Christian culture. And it is good that we are having an honest discussion about them. But after our experience and that of others, I do not believe the Benedict option is it.

Luma Simms is an associate fellow at The Philos Project. She writes on culture, family, philosophy, politics, religion, and the life and thought of immigrants. Her work has appeared at First Things Magazine, Public Discourse, The Federalist, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter: @lumasimms.

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Jonestown survivor to present at USI – USI Communications

Posted: March 27, 2017 at 5:09 am

The University of Southern Indiana will host a presentation by Laura Johnston Kohl, a Jonestown Survivor and author of Jonestown Survivor: An Insiders Look, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 10 in Carter Hall located in University Center West. The presentation, entitled Jonestown Survivor Evolution of Peoples Temple in the 1960s and 1970s, is free and open to the public.

Kohl, spent nine years in California and Guyana with Peoples Temple, the religious organization led by Jim Jones. She was away from the organization on November 18, 1978, when 918 people died from cyanide poisoning, and was one of only 87 who lived through the event. After spending 20 years recovering and rebuilding, Kohl became a speaker and author on Jonestown and communal studies.

Kohl is a regular contributor to the Jonestown Report, a publication from the Jonestown Institute. She is organizing a survivors visit to Jonestown with a documentary crew. Kohl has bachelors degrees in psychology and philosophy from the University of New York and a bilingual teaching credential from Chapman University.

Kohl is a writer, a bilingual teacher, a regular public speaker and a presenter and board member of the Communal Studies Association.

The presentation is the spring 2017 lecture for USIs Center for Communal Studies, which promotes the study of contemporary and historic communal groups, intentional communities and utopias. For more information, contact Jennifer Greene at 812-464-1832 or

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