Friday, October 23, 2009

Community Living

Had few people ask me about the challenges of community living, here are my top ten challenges:

Community living and communal living are two very different beasts, we all live in various forms of community but we don't all live communally. I think it is important to make this distinction, communal living is often held up as the zenith and holy grail of all things community. Biblically it isn't a model you read about. The israelites were a community of people yet they all had their own tents!

If you do go for a communal living experiment, you may have had people living with you before. You need to realise there is a big difference between people living with you and people sharing with you. When people move into your home, no matter how chilled you are, they will live by your rules or your unspoken code of living. When you share everyone gets a say in how to live, how to set up rooms, how to allocate jobs, how tidy everyone needs to be!!!

If you find yourself in a communal living situation it is important that you still have a private family space, something the farm didn't afford for any of us. This is actually just as important for singles as for couples and families, if you don't have private living quarters you will eventually find yourself having whispered arguments in a room somewhere because you don't want to wash your dirty linen in public. We all need our own space to walk about naked in, if we want to!

Communal living is restrictive to growth and can easily give the impression there is a group who are in and a group who are out, houses will eventually reach capacity. This can lead to the impression that the communal livers are really doing community whilst the rest of us just aren't hard core enough!!!! It can also lead to other people thinking you are a weird exclusive cult, especially if you get a farm in the hills.......

Everybody working together and living together can lead to a lack of delineation in your home and work life. People will talk about work when really they should just be chilling. I think if you are going to do communal living people working in different jobs would be a real help. This of course can also happen to couple who work together.

Homes need to be havens, places of escape as well as places of hospitality. Think about the fact that you will want visitors and so will the other people who live in the home, this can add pressure. Living abroad makes this even more intense as visitors tend to come for a week at a time!

Communal living can make more sense economically, and it will grow you in grace. Shared pots can be good, but can still lead to tension as someone will think one thing is a necessity and another person thinks its a luxury!

Communal living will highlight how judgmental we are. We all have an idea that the way we do things is the best way, the way we spend money is the most sensible way. When people do it differently we can soon become judgmental.

Communal living mixed with simple living can add pressure. Actually living simply is very difficult, we need to remember that the industrial revolution happened for a reason! The reason some people, Shane Clairborne included, can live simply is because some people don't live simply, they work real hard and help provide for other people and ministries to exist. Rich people invest in kingdom initiatives all around the world and without them people couldn't try to plant communities in tough places. Give the rich a break.

Community living is the way to proceed, by all means try communal living, but for me community living is a necessary part of our faith that has to be accessible to all. Geographical proximity would be the best way forward for this, all live separately but in the same neighbourhood, have rhythms of prayer, times of eating and gathering.

Then at the end of the day everybody goes home to their own tent.


resa said...

Nice to read your reflections Brian. Point 2 is ever so important.

On number 1 & 10, sure everyone had a tent, but there was often an entire extended family in that one tent. I love living with people. Krister and I live downstairs and three others lives upstairs, and we have an entirely shared kitchen. For us this works well. We also have enough common spaces to make five people work well, even with two others sparing a room.

With having guests, we find it is much easier with more people, as the responsibility can be shared. (i.e. one person meet them at the bus stop and another shows them around and after them leave another washes their sheets.)

Brian said...

Large extended biological family in many ways much easier. An entirely shared kitchen is not an entirely shared house.

I think it depends on the community agreement to have guests, if they are community guests your arrangement works well as it did with us. If it's personal guests I think it is different.

Mark G said...

Very perceptive and helpful. Shows you have learnt a lot in the last year.

DJ Friar said...

Some very wise reflections here mate! Point 1 is a very important one to communicate to people who are talking about community living.