My wife and I have been thinking and praying quite a bit about community in our lives. It is a subject I keep coming back to when I muse on the spiritual life. The monastics hold up for us the ideal "Christian life," not because they are single and chaste, but because of their way of life.
Simplicity, communal living, shared liturgical services, common labor, silence, etc...
All of these are to be the attributes of the married life as well (at least in Orthodoxy)....
Living in Portland, with such a low number of "Gen-X" Orthodox makes this more of a challenge. It is especially hard at our church because of its downtown city location and large numbers of commuters who come to it from large distances. We have a nice community at St. Nicholas, but unless we start to get several new waves of young converts, it will continue to lack what is becoming for us a necessary quality. Even if this never happened and St. Nicholas never grew much more, I would still be happy here. But deeper community, more intense shared living experience, etc are still ideas I am playing with.
Here are a few of my thoughts about what I would like to see happen:
1) Living within walking distance (or at least a couple of miles) away from an Orthodox Church.
2) Living in a more rural environment where a large gardens, fruit trees, etc can be grown and where a more silent and contemplative way of life is possible.
3) Sharing meals and even living space with other Orthodox people. It is such a shame that we cart off our parents and grandparents to nursing homes. Why can't we figure out a way of living with them in large community? For example, pooling resources and buying 10-20 acres of land and putting up several houses?
4) Reader's services (such as Matins or Vespers) would be done every day, thus giving our daily lives a more structured and prayer-centered existence. Not quite as intense as a full-blow monastery, but a bit more than the usual 2 Vespers a week + Liturgy.
We are talking with my wife's parents, who go to a Greek Orthodox Church on the other side of town, about possibly pooling our resources together in this venture. And at this point there are so many questions, issues, possible complications involved--it seems more of a pipe dream at this point....But it is something we keep toying with....(See my 12/2/02 post for more on this)
The whole idea of "lay ascetic/lay monastic community" is one I will be musing about over the next few months...