catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 18 :: 2012.10.12 — 2012.10.25


Home tour

The tourist lurks around the edges of the community, Photoshopping her needs and curiosities into the local culture, taking pictures of spectacular views as though she feeds on them to survive, speaking as though volume will translate her foreign language into the native tongue. The world is a film set constructed for her delight, subtitled for her convenience, populated with placed products, and when she leaves, life proceeds as it always has and always will, unchanged by her brief viewing.

Coming off three weeks of travel in areas that draw a lot of tourists, I’m aware that this approach is common, but not, I hope, inevitable. As we trekked through England, Italy and France, we tried to be “good tourists,” whatever that means, willing to carry the weight of self-awareness everywhere we went. How can we embody the consciousness of gracious guests, as opposed to the entitlement of paying customers? As much as I enjoyed the time my husband Rob and I spent in Europe, such experiences stretch unfamiliar muscles for me. A couple of nights here or there in guest houses or hostels, reached by plane or train — the norms of the backpacking life stand in stark contrast to the life we seek to cultivate at home. And I suppose that’s part of the point of getting away: to reset our commitments, our routines, our bodies.

However, I can only go so long before I start craving a reminder of roots. It’s not homesickness, per se, and yet, it is: a longing to witness and experience the kind of connection that smells of home wherever it might happen to occur. We were fortunate in our wanderings to catch several multi-sensory glimpses of such community and it feels appropriate, as we celebrate ten years of catapult’s efforts to model and encourage Christ-centered community the world over, to highlight just a few of those experiences.

Our first stop was London to visit our good friends James and Kari, and their kids Elisabeth and Aidan. We stumbled in the front door of their row house on a Monday morning, heavy laden with backpacks and jet lag, and managed to get a good nap in before the evening’s community meal a few blocks away at Andy and Rachel’s. For many years, Andy and Rachel have been hosting an open-invitation dinner on Monday nights and we joined them in their recently expanded, yet still humble kitchen. In view of a back yard complete with guinea pigs, chickens and a multi-story playhouse, we gathered around the table in the diversity of our ages, nationalities and faith commitments. There was no program other than a simple reading and prayer (for those inclined), followed by spaghetti, wine, conversation and sweets. Nestled in the exhaustion and wonder of the first day of a big trip, I felt like we’d discovered buried treasure: within the maze of one of the largest cities in the world, guided by our friends James and Kari, we found ourselves at the center of a remarkably warm ritual, aglow with hospitality and gratitude at the rare intersection of the surreal and the real fostered by faithfulness and shared vision.

The next day, still fortified by the Monday meal, we were off to Hilfield Friary, a Franciscan community I happened to find in a book of monasteries that offer lodging. What began 90 years ago as a group of brothers offering hospitality to wayfarers has adapted significantly in the past few years toward the goal of not just surviving, but finding new ways to thrive within the Franciscan ethos. Hilfield’s unique combination of commitments strums all sorts of chords that resonate deeply in my heart: serving a rural community, keeping a collective discipline of prayer and scripture-reading, growing plants for food and beauty, eating together, upholding global justice, seeking ecological sustainability, cultivating a healthy model for decision-making, and inviting guests in to share the abundance and rest their spirits in the rhythm of the community’s life. We certainly recognized a sense of home here and regretted that we only had a very short time to bask in the light of the friary’s holistic hospitality.

Our time in England was followed by the event that prompted our trip in the first place: the Fetzer Institute’s Global Gathering in Assisi, Italy. Practitioners of love and forgiveness from a huge range of vocations converged for four days to share ideas and swap stories in a variety of gorgeous settings, including the Basilica of St. Francis. My repeated awe at the delights of the location was paralleled by repeated gratitude for the work of the participants all over the world. I met people who do reconciliation work in Northern Ireland and who make pottery with marginalized people in Baltimore. I heard the stories of those who risk their lives to build schools in Afghanistan and who organize parents to forgive their children’s kidnappers in Uganda. The community of the event itself was a thing to behold, but beyond its powerful sampling of the creative capacity of the human spirit is the work the participants do in their corners of the world, every single day.

And if I might humbly allow catapult to take its place at that big table that the Global Gathering represented, I’m proud of the ways in which this little volunteer-run publication has, for ten years, been telling the stories of people’s doubts, successes, fears, confessions, celebrations and imaginings in their efforts to follow the way of Christ, in small and large ways, every day, wherever they find themselves. Coming home from England, from Italy, from France, I find not disappointment or boredom, but gratitude: for simple meals of food grown by my neighbors, for placeful purpose nourished by collaboration, for a community of friends who are like family. I could live my life as a tourist, always on the move in search of the next photo op or penultimate meal or authentic encounter with locals, always consuming but never creating, always taking but never giving back. But I’d much rather live as a good neighbor in a place where my love can put down deep roots — roots that can intertwine with those of other kindred spirits the world over, right to the very core of the earth, created by the One who sustains all things.

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