In the spring of 2011 my partner Reed Loy and I had been together for two years, and engaged for several months. We had been doing work that called to us- he in campus ministry and I in environmental education- but in different parts of New England. We each wanted a change, and we wanted to be together while doing so. We needed a change because the work we had been doing, while in our desired fields, had sapped our spirits a bit. Reed loved his work at the campus ministry, but had come to realize that he didn’t quite have the training for what was being asked of him by his community. I too loved my job working at an outdoor/science camp, but was tired of the isolation and the difficulties this created within my community of fellow staff members. We needed work that would renew our spiritual lives through a more structured and supported intentional community experience. You might say, we needed a more intentional intentional community.
After months of searching and interviews, we had been disheartened to find that most Episcopal Service Corps sites shied away from having us because we were engaged. After some conversation with Jason and Arrington, they decided to accept us together, and so began our mutual and yet individual journeys to spiritual wellness and communal love with Life Together. I can safely say that, of the whole package offered by Life Together, we were changed most by our time in the community. Leadership training days were incredibly powerful, especially the group check-ins, which quickly became a sacred part of the day. And our time in our own intentional communities was life-changing too. Throughout the year we each grew better at three wonderful things: listening to others without needing to project our ideas onto them; speaking in ways that were inclusive and understanding; and learning what it means to love others as your neighbor- even if in the moment you don’t really like them.
We are different people today than we were before Life Together, because of our year learning those three things. We try to make those practices a regular part of our interactions with the world. But even more importantly, they have become a regular part of our relationship. Doing Life Together together changed our relationship forever, in the best ways possible. We grew better at listening to each other. We grew better at talking to each other. We learned to love each other’s faults and to laugh when we “NVC’ed” each other (“non-violently-communicated”). While we had been doing these things pretty well already, Life Together strengthened them in ways we never would have been able to do on our own. And now amazingly it’s been four years since we left the program. We’ve moved across the country twice, gotten a degree, held multiple jobs, been ordained, experienced family heartbreak and joy, been pregnant and now are parents to our beautiful two-month-old daughter Laurel. What Life Together gave us, and helped us learn, we have carried through these experiences and will continue to carry the rest of our lives.