Finding my Voice

Submitted by Eli Winterfeld on January 12, 2012 - 1:35pm
An upraising in Intentional Community

When Paul Born asked me to blog I was surprised but ready to accept the challenge. He advised me to “find my voice” in order to write engaging pieces. Finding your voice he said is developing an understanding and appreciation for the various aspects that shape your personality, thought process and values.

I’ve given some thought to what my voice is, trying to determine the perspective my blogs. I suppose all of my blogs are part of the journey in which the “voice” is developed and I hope that, while my voice becomes clearer, the journey never ends as we explore new ideas and look at old ideas with different angles.

I will start at the beginning.  I was born and raised in an intentional community (another term is commune, but I tend to avoid using it because of the many negative connotations). The community is called Jubilee Partners and is a Christian service community in Georgia (the state) and I lived for 16 years there. Its main area of emphasis is assisting refugee from war torn countries transition into life in the United States. The backbone endevours include teaching English and introducing the newcomers to the new culture and environment.

Of course any organization could facilitate such a programme but what makes Jubilee special is the intentionality of the work. The members of the community live on the same property as the refugees and we share together: weekly meals, work in the garden, games of soccer and volleyball, parties, worship and other communal activities.

Jubilee is not solely focused on work though. To nurture the personal lives of all involved, Jubilee tries to create the strongest community possible. Without becoming too long winded I will describe a few characteristics and logistics of Jubilee’s form of intentional community:

There are is no salary. Rather, resources are pooled to provide each individual and family with everything needed for a fulfilling life (which is largely not material in my own experience). Lunch and supper are both communal and held in a large central building. All vehicles are shared and one may simply sign one out on a chalk board. Every family or individual has their own house or apartment. Work is divided according to particular interests and skills but all take turns cooking and cleaning. Some days a morning is set aside for the whole community to work together whether that be in the garden together or assembling, stamping and addressing newsletters.

In short, the intentionality, strong sense of common purpose and simple lifestyle at Jubilee are at the base of the formation of my “voice”. This description of the community just barely begins to peel back the layers that are the onion-like life of intentional community. I could go on for pages more, but I shall spare you my nostalgic musings. Please feel free to ask any questions you like about Jubilee or share your own experiences.

Thank you, Eli


I knew you in your childhood, when I was a member of Sojourners Community and made visits to Jubilee Partners. That relationship has continued, as I served on Jubilee's board for a few years and assisted Don Mosley in writing his two books about the community. Last month I stayed with your parents and brothers (and puppy Ivy) in Waterloo, and got updates on the great choices you're making with your life. How wonderful to read this blog, and to know that your time at Jubilee shaped you in such marvelous ways! I hope that next time I'm in Waterloo, I'll get to see you as well.

With gratitude,

Joyce Hollyday

How now?

Hi Eli,

Nice surprise to see you here! How does your experience of community influence your current path? For example, do you want to own a house? If so, where and with what kind of hopes/plans for community? What parts of Jubilee do you seek to recreate where you are now?

I'll give some examples of how my early experience of community influences me now. I grew up on the margins of an Amish community (my dad taught in an Amish school for 23 yrs and they were our friends, neighbours, babysitters...). An example of an influence is that I keep feeling like I'm missing something because I rarely work with  my current neighbours. With the Amish we'd often be vaccinating ducks, rebuilding a barn, doing dishes...  Another influence is that I often get the urge to drop off a pie at the neighbours. I'm pretty sure I can give credit to our Amish neighbours for this as they often surprised us with food - even annual grocery showers.


First off, I'd like to say it

First off, I'd like to say it has been wonderful so far being on the recieving end of your neighbourly gifts of pie and soup as well as Wendell's bread (Nina's father).  It shall be re-gifted in kind when I am around the neighbourhood a little more.

My experience in community has influenced (and will continue to do so) me in many ways.  It has given me a taste for what community can be and I now perpetually am looking for my next fix.  We do "family dinner" once a week in my student house and share groceries in one fridge (for 8 people!).  The longing for intentional community is also why I always return to Silver Lake Mennonite every summer, depite the low wages.

Looking to the future, I think a large portion of my energy will be dedicated towards attempting to bring that sense of community to others, whether that be through formal programs or informal actions in my personal life.  I want to give that sense of joy from the interdependence and trust of community to others by being the first to offer it.  I want be show people, by example, that it is ok to be vulunerable to the greater community.

That was pretty abstract but that's kind of where I am coming from at the moment (university).  In less than 4 months I'll be able to put a little more walk to my talk hopefully.

very good

Eli, you bring a youthful wisdom from this experience and your ongoing journey to find community and build it. You bring profound wisdom to this discussion and I would venture to say that you are the only one on this site that grew up for the first sixteen years of their life in a community dedicated to serve for a better world. I went to visit Jublilee last year. Profound and beautiful.

See below for a link to my blog and reflections on this special place.

so different, so similar

Thank you for sharing your history at Jubilee, Eli. 

My up bringing was SO, SO different from yours, yet it appears that the drive to create community wherever we are has some similarities (must be our humanity!).

I moved communities (even countries) every 2 - 3 years of my life until I was 26. It was my transience that helped define HOW I fit into new places and helped to define my role in local community. Also - strange as it may seem - a community bond is formed among people who are transient.

I think the richness of how different people's experiences are with community (particularly during the journey of childhood) is what makes "creating community"  challenging but oh, so rewarding as adults.


Tracy Smyth

Raising the Village