After coming across a recent story on BBC about a Swiss monastery seeking more members, this whole notion of living in intentional community once again came to the forefront of my thoughts. To be honest, I’ve been playing around with the idea for the past year, but this news article gives prudence to these thoughts once again.
Alright, so here’s the thing. I LOVE the idea of living in a monastic community. If I could spend every hour of my life in simplicity, contemplation, and service, I would. However, I don’t necessarily want to give up my faith tradition, or the potential to have a traditional family (kids, wife, that sort of thing). So this idea of ‘intentional community’ exists, and this could look a lot of different ways.
I know friends who live in such communities. Some have taken vows of poverty. Some live on the same street. Some consider their ‘community’ to be on-line. Some live in the same house with multiple families sharing common property and space. Here’s what I’m proposing…I just need some help with it.
What if…this community shares a common space (like a manse). I don’t need money; just pay for my living expenses. I’m thinking a local congregation or presbytery can financial support this. In exchange, this community would serve as the ‘staff’ for a congregation. We would each have responsibilities (shared), and use our skill sets to better the congregation. Think about this way: it’s sort of like a co-co-co-co-co-pastor staffing model.
Who would make up the intentional community? Well, this could get tricky if you’re having a congregation financially support this group. But I’m thinking there would be similar programs/internships like we see with YAVs, seminarians, etc. It wouldn’t necessarily be a life-long commitment like that of traditional monasteries, but I guess it could…we have pastors who stick around.
So here’s what I need. I need a congregation that would be interested in such a project. I need a house big enough for a few people. I need a PNC that would entertain the idea of opening a traditional single-pastor model, and move to a multi-pastor model. I need other individuals who would make a vow to simple living, communal discernment, congregational ministry, and a spirit of theological adventure:).
Are there problems and critiques with such a proposal? Of course. The potential for internal conflict is always there. But is it any more of a risk than working with a Session? The money…I can honestly say that I don’t know all of the expenses of such a model. But we’re talking vows of poverty, people! And monastics usually find other means of income anyways to help cover the costs. Would this take away from the Presbyterian value of ‘elder rule’? Perhaps, but it can also expand on such ideals. The Session would always maintain voting privileges…they would just work with a larger pastoral staff.
The more I think about this, we could help offset costs by making this into a reality tv show…just sayin’.
Okay! So where am I misled here? Why wouldn’t this work…besides the general conflict of culture with the traditional pastor model? And finally, who is with me? Interested in joining such a community? Men and women, single and married, children or no children…all invited!