catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 16 :: 2005.09.09 — 2005.09.22


Celebrating unity and difference

By way of introduction, where are you currently located and in what ways do you make a living?

I live in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. I make a living mainly through being a temporary worker. I also am a Spiritual Director and painter and iconographer. The two jobs that take up much of my time are working as leader of the Community of the Holy Trinity and as a pastor of Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler both of which currently are volunteer positions.

What is the story of how the Community of the Holy Trinity began?

My wife Kate and I had friends who had lived with Jesus People USA. Both no longer lived there for a variety of reasons, but thought they might still be called to live in an intentional community. However, given their disagreements with Jesus People, they were unsure what that would look like and if a community could be more consistent in its life together. In my last year in seminary I had begun to reflect on the possibility of a Protestant monasticism. The ecumenical Protestant monastery of Taiz? influenced my thinking on this. At the time my thoughts were not of Kate and I being part of an intentional community, but of possibly fostering a monastery perhaps attached to a church I would pastor. After seminary I did not receive a call to a church and continued my reflections on monasticism in a Protestant context and further looked into various intentional communities. Our friends who had been at Jesus People, knowing I was thinking about community and monasticism, asked to meet with Kate and I to reflect on living in community and help them discern if they were in fact called to live in community again. Several things came out of this request: first, I decided that we would begin our reflection on community by studying the early chapters of Acts along with early monastic rules. Second, we usually shared meals and had small prayer services when we met to reflect and study. At this time, the couple were also in a time of financial difficulty and we had been talking about how intentional community can be a means to pool resources and free individuals from the burden of necessity. After a several months of meeting, our friends came to us and asked if we would live in community with them with the intention of creating something that others could also join down the road. So the four of us began to write a rule centered on the Divine office and the ancient daily prayer cycle of the Church and based on the Rules of St Benedict, St Basil and Taiz?. We also began prayerfully looking for an apartment or house to share in Chicago. In June of 2003, we moved into an apartment in the Rogers Park Neighborhood of Chicago.

What are some elements of the rule of the Community of the Holy Trinity? (or is there a place online that I could link to the community’s rule?)

Our Rule is divided into several sections:

  • On membership: the different types of membership and the various commitments and responsibilities of members.
  • On the prayer life of the community: we follow a modified form of the Daily Office of the Church.
  • On the administration of the community.
  • On our understanding of holding things in common.
  • On the nature and role of leadership in the community.
  • On hospitality.

A noted aspect of our Rule is that it attempts to anticipate growth and so what it describes isn?t what our community actually looks like but the goals we have for ourselves as a community. The Rule is something we are seeking to live into; it is a guide to our common life.

How does sharing an apartment with another couple work logistically? What would be your advice to a similar group that was seeking a space for an intentional community?

Sharing an apartment with another couple requires being very intentional about boundaries. It also requires all involved to accept that the only private and personal space is one?s bedroom. All other space is shared common space. This requires a specific and special calling of the couple. It is hard to say that sharing the apartment with another couple worked, as the couple we began the Community of Holy Trinity in the end felt that the pressures of sharing an apartment with another couple and a single person was too great for their relationship. However, Kate and I have found it has disciplined our relationship. I think it involves not only the individuals knowing themselves well, but also the couple having a deep grasp of their relationship. Sharing an apartment with a couple or even as a couple with single persons puts constraints ones relationship that do not exist when one is living as a couple alone. I suspect it is analogous to the constraints and pressures of having children except that those one is sharing space with are fully formed human persons whom you are responsible to in very different ways. Given this I would say that it is not logistically impossible, though there is a certain difficulty. I would advise that a similar group think about the size of the space. It is amazing how quickly a seemingly large space becomes quite small when several people share that space. Have an idea about how you want to use your space and attempt to anticipate what your group will need in terms of settling into the space. However, I would say that most important is writing a covenant or Rule and being as sure as one can be that all in the group have the gifting and calling of an intensive common life. If you are thinking about intentional community whether as couples or singles or a mixture, find ways you can test your calling, whether it is finding an already existing community in which you could participate in some way or finding ways you can place yourself in communal situations. Lastly, begin sharing common life with people before entering a long term commitment, finding ways to regularly share common meals and other ways to share resources. In intentional community, whether that involves having common property or having a common purse, the difficult thing (as well as the very rewarding thing) is that you have less of what is simply yours.

What is the story of how the Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler began?

The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler began in conversations between Tripp Hudgins while he was a student at Seabury-Western Seminary in Evanston and one of his professors, Rev. Dr. David Gortner, concerning young adult ministry and the reasons that young adults had for staying away from church and the barriers to evangelization. The idea of an ecumenical congregation began from these conversations as David and Tripp focused on the stumbling block that denominational divisions presented to those who were on the fringes of the church or who were unfamiliar with Christianity. Soon the idea of a congregation affiliated with three different denominations contributing to the life of the three denominations and sharing at the local level the spiritual traditions of the denominations came into being. In spring of 2004, I was approached to see if I and the Evangelical Covenant Church would be interested in an ecumenical church plant, with the two other denominations being American Baptist (Tripp is an American Baptist minister) and Episcopal (David Gortner is also an Episcopal priest). David and Tripp then gathered a group of 10 to 15 and this group began to meet for worship (including Eucharist), meal and discussion to discern God?s leading. The discernment of the group was that God was calling this congregation into being. The group coalesced into six people and we began public services at the now defunct Chase Caf? in Rogers Park first advent of 2004.

After nearly a year of public services with the Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, what is your feeling about how well the church is succeeding at its goal of ecumenism?

Given the unprecedented nature of an ecumenical congregation it is hard to asses success at this point. We probably have had roughly 50 people visit and worship with us over the past year and two who have visited have stayed. We are still in the process of negotiating with our denominational institutions about how to affiliate with three different denominations simultaneously.

Our worship life is our focus, and for the eight (including the three pastors) who make up our small congregation our worship life is very rich and living together as a single ecumenical fellowship is working. It remains to be seen what will happen and what stresses there will be as we grow and as we discover what our relationship to our three denominations will look like.

In what ways has the church grown and changed in the past year?

We have grown as a fellowship of believers. As we worshiped together and wrote our constitution, we came to realize that while we could recognize the traditions we came from and the Pastors are responsible to their denominations and those who oversee their ministry, it would be unfruitful to say that there were Baptist and Covenant and Episcopal members of Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, rather we now see it that all members of Reconciler are in a sense Baptist, Covenant and Episcopal, and that the choosing of a tradition will take place when people leave. The changes have largely been in our location and due to outside pressures and circumstances. We have had to face the reality that affiliating with the three denominations, Evangelical Covenant, American Baptist and Episcopal will take longer than we had originally thought and so are having to find ways to exist independently while seeking to be affiliated with the three denominations.

What other communities are you involved in? Is there a vision that unifies your participation in various communities?

The other communities are more informal, various groups of friends and then the Gothic scene in Chicago. There is a shared vision between the Community of the Holy Trinity and Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler, but I am not certain there is a unifying vision that ties together all my attachments. I am a Christian and minister wherever I am, but I do not see the need beyond honesty and consistency to have a unifying vision of all the communities I am involved in. In fact, I believe that such a vision would limit my diverse attachments. I enjoy the Gothic scene, and my involvement with other communities and scenes is on the first level defined by that community or scene, and not that my involvement fits into some unified vision. I think that various sub-cultures do provide community for people especially in an urban context like LA or Chicago and I enter into them as a Christian, but also to partake in those sub-cultures. It seems to me that it is a good and necessary thing in our time for Christians to simply be present without some grand vision or scheme in the various communities our culture creates and to learn what it means to be Christian in such a pluralistic setting.

How is your theology of the Trinity and of the Eucharist interwoven with your experiences in the Community of the Holy Trinity and in the Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler?

We chose the name Community of the Holy Trinity out of a belief that common life and community must be grounded in the life of the divine community of the Trinity. The trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is the true life of all community worthy of the name. In the Trinity we find both perfect relation between persons and a unity that does not obliterate difference. These are characteristics necessary for community and especially intentional community. Intentional community does not work well if one attempts to guard one?s individuality above all else. It also doesn?t work well if the reality of the uniqueness of persons is not recognized and celebrated. A focus on individuality denies that as persons we are who we are in relation to other persons, just as it is impossible to understand and know the person of the Father without understanding the Father?s relation to the Son, and the Father?s relation to the Spirit. So, too, we cannot know and understand the Son with out recognizing that the Son is in part the Son?s relationship to the Father and the Spirit, and so too with the Spirit (which is why the dispute over the addition of the Filioque into the Nicene creed by the West is no idle theological dispute but touches on how we understand the persons of the Trinity). A community or a community leadership that seeks to treat all the same without recognition of the uniqueness of persons attempts to attain unity through the denial of difference. This is itself a denial of personhood as our personhood in relation is based on difference and otherness from other persons. A proper understanding of the Trinity shows us the perfect balance between unity and difference in a differentiated unity. Given that the Community is not a Eucharistic community (we do not have our own communion services a part from such services in local congregations), the ways in which a Eucharistic spirituality forms us are less obvious. However, Thanksgiving and self-donation exemplified in the churches? celebration of communion are the life of our community and again I believe the life of any community worthy of the name. Members of the Community of the Holy Trinity are required to be members of a local church, and thus that congregation?s Eucharistic life. It is in coming to the Table and partaking of Christ that we have the strength and nourishment to live out our life together. Though, in this we are no different than Christians in other callings and differing life circumstances. The calling and life of a community like Holy Trinity is simply an intensified and concentrated form of the life that is the goal of all Christians. Our hope is that we may be witnesses to this radical life embedded in the life of the trinity dependent on the very life of Christ.

For Reconciler, the Eucharist is central to our life as a fellowship. We celebrate the Eucharist weekly, so each time we gather we come together around the Table of our Lord, to receive our nourishment from him. For me all worship points us toward the table whether of the Word or of song or prayer or silent meditation. We come as a people of God to recount and be renewed by the act of God in history and ultimately in Christ in the cross and resurrection. And in Christ we find true food and true drink and we come to the table for that food. Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler is unashamedly Trinitarian. This does not mean that all who come always know what that means or that we always exemplify the life of the Trinity but that our goal is in many ways the same as that of the Community of the Holy Trinity. Also it is the unity with difference of the Trinity that is the basis of hope for any and all ecumenical endeavors, for it is God who will bring about the unity we seek and we know that this God is both three and one, that in the very person we worship is the example of the unity of the Church of Christ.

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