With the leadership of my wife's parents and the enthusiastic help of close friends from our respective parishes, we have continued to research and formulate our vision for a specifically Orthodox "lay ascetic"/intentional community over the last few months.
At a recent meeting we talked about what each one of us is looking for, how we think this should take shape, what it will look like and how it will function. When you say the words "co-housing" or the words "intentional community" it is amazing to see how different the assumptions and ideas are from person to person!
It has been important for us to all agree on some basic plans and flesh out how the Orthodox experience of koinonia would be the foundation of our vision. In some ways, this discussion has been similar to pre-marital counseling!
Briefly, our goal is to collectively purchase (probably via a LLC) a 10-15 unit apartment complex. We would have a core group of committed financial partners among the family units who would commit to purchasing shares in the company as well as people simply paying rent to live in our community.
Even with a rise in interest rates, the numbers crunch out very favorably for everyone involved. If you figure in things like common meals, and other shared resources, the financial side of it is even more advantageous.
What is more important, however, is the amazing opportunities for spiritual growth. If Orthodoxy is ever to really flourish in America, we must be diligent about creating authentic community that goes well beyond pleasantries at coffee hours, small talk after Vespers, and discussions that always end with "Hey, we'll see you next Sunday." Here are just a few of the ideas we brainstormed about:
being able to help those in need
learning how to set boundaries
organic relationships: ability to transcend the "cult of the nice" sharing our gifts and talents
sharing resources, financially advantageous
Incarnated living; Orthodoxy in context
able to draw from spiritual father's advice
raising children in safe community
taking advantage of others
problems with growth
guilt for those who choose not to participate
people leaving/lack of commitment
One of our main goals is to create a bridge between the intensity of a full-blown Athonite monastic living situation and the fragmented, suburban, isolated living most of us have been sucked into via American culture.
For most of us in parish life with families, the full monastic life is obviously not an option. However, many of us are starting to realize that the isolated and wasteful way of living in American culture is, in many ways, incompatible with a vibrant Orthodox lifestyle.
I will have *much* more to say about all this as time goes on. Stay tuned....