Intentional Community is More than Pious Twenty-Somethings Getting Their Spiritual Groove On

This weekend I found myself trying to explain in conversation how much I valued living in intentional community. I was amazed at how difficult it was to put into words! But I’m going to try again, and maybe through written word I will better be able to explain why I think intentional community can, if you let it, be the most transformational and amazing thing you experience as an intern with Life Together.

First of all, when people hear “Life Together intentional community,” I think they picture a bunch of pious, saintly twenty-somethings sitting around spiritually grooving together. I wish I could tell you we were all saintly- and pious- but intentional community is actually the place where your very human side of your spiritual life ends up being exposed. Not only exposed, but confronted. When you commit to intentional community, there is no way to hide from yourself, and from others, because, well, you have said that you’re going to be intentional about making a community.

Make no mistake, this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Brother David Vryhoff, SSJE, told us all on our 8th day of orientation that those with whom we disagreed would end up being our greatest teachers. I have (a little disconcertingly) found that I have many teachers. In fact, it was easy to see the people I disagreed with as teachers. However, then I realized that if I had teachers, that must mean I had something to learn. And admitting to myself that I could stand to learn a few things was quite difficult. I had to face parts of myself that I thought were safely dealt with, safely hidden away, and it was only through living with my beloved housemates that I realized what exactly those things were, and how hiding them was only made them hurt more.

It took a long time, but I’m finally beginning to be comfortable with the idea that I’m (surprisingly) not perfect yet, nor am I just good enough. In fact, I’ll never be good enough, I’ll certainly never be perfect, and that’s a really good thing. If I thought I was good enough I would have nothing left to learn from anyone. I would be denying the rich, stable love that is realized between two people when they have a caring, trusting, and honest relationship where you are free to teach each other as much as you can. And that inherent love is, to me, the truest expression of God’s work that I have seen yet.

By Linden Rayton, 2011-12 Micah Fellow at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Dorchester