Jubilee Partners

Submitted by Anonymous on April 5, 2012 - 3:59pm

Jubilee Partners is an intentional Christian service community in rural northeast Georgia. Our primary ministry is offering hospitality to refugees who have newly arrived in the U.S. They seek to understand and live by the radical implications of following Jesus Christ. They are deeply concerned about how to be effective peacemakers and how to promote justice and understanding among our neighbors and around the world. They look to the life and teachings of Jesus as our starting place, but they work to build bridges with people from every kind of background.

 

Read More >> on Jubilee Partner’s website and by reading this library resource that was created from members who blogged about their experiences at Jubilee Partners. Members including, people that have lived at Jubilee for years to students who are curious about another way of living.

  

Seeking Community – Follow Paul and Will on the Road. Written by Paul Born, December 13th, 2010

Paul Born is the co-founder and president of the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagment. He loves community and has extensive experience in helping organizations and communities to develop new and sustainable ideas that motivate people.

Will Winterfeld is a man who lives, breathes, and learns community. And I am fortunate enough to have been welcomed along on a community-seeking road trip with him from January 7th to 15th.

Will and his family spent a good part of their lives at Jubilee, an Intentional faith community, or as Will calls them, a commune. Jubilee supports refugees and fights the death penalty, to name just a few of their good works. Jubilee is one of the sites we will visit on our trip. There are several other communities and people we will visit in and around Atlanta, and in Memphis (where we are staying at a Quaker house). Seeking Community blogger Joyce Hollyday, lives along our route and Will knows her well,  so a visit to her and the community she lives in is a must.

As much as I am looking forward to write about our visits with others, I am equally excited to tell you part of Will’s story and share his knowledge with you as we go. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours practicing something to really “get it”. Well, Will has devoted way more time than that to seeking community, and his ideas are truly contagious.

Will is going to provide new eyes and ears for me on this trip and what he shares with me, I will pass onto you.

 

 

Road Trip – Memphis and Birmingham. Written by Paul Born, January 12th, 2011

Paul Born is the co-founder and president of the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagment. He loves community and has extensive experience in helping organizations and communities to develop new and sustainable ideas that motivate people.

Saturday night we arrived in Memphis - tired after a long day on the road driving. We had driven past the home of President Jimmy Carter, miles of cotton fields and through many small American towns. I had heard of many of these towns, the most famous of course being Birmingham, Alabama.

Will and I shared many memories of the civil rights movement. For me they were just stories I had read in a book, many of the leaders in the movement mythical characters. For Will these places and people were very real. He lived at Jubilee Partners for 18 years near Athens, Georgia as part of an intentional social justice community at the heart of the peace and justice movement in America. He met so many people who shaped the civil rights movement and for whom the issues of segregation and discrimination had been part of every day life - people who had walked with Martin Luther King Junior and who had made great sacrifices. It was a privilege to hear Will's stories of the people he had met.

We had intended to stay at a Quaker house and visit with communitarians and social justice advocates while in Memphis. For a variety of reasons this did not work out and the place we had hoped to stay was more of a youth hostel than a community. We checked into a simple hotel in the downtown and began our exploration. Will is a big fan of blues and jazz and we spent a good part of the evening at BB Kings, listening to some fantastic music.

The next day we went to music great Al Green's church. What an experience - the service lasted three hours. There was music - a fantastic gospel choir and band, and of course Al Green sang. I have never quite experienced a church service like that. Both Will and I agreed that if we ever lived in Memphis, this is the church we would attend. Though we drove past Graceland in the week of Elvis Presley's birthday, neither of us was moved to visit.

By Sunday night we knew that we would be staying at least one extra day in Memphis, as a freak winter storm brought ice rain and snow, literally freezing the city. The next morning (Monday) we walked the streets of a nearly deserted city. To us eastern Canadians it felt more like spring weather, but here the snow stopped everything. We were warned not to drive - not only because the roads were icy, but because the people on the roads were not used to the conditions and would be the real danger. We had wanted to visit the civil rights museum, built on the place where Martin Luther King had been shot, but it too was closed. At least we got some pictures of us standing outside.

Tuesday feeling "hotel bound" we ventured out even though the road conditions were considered dangerous. We made it as far as Birmingham and decided to spend the night there. Wednesday, after visiting the civil rights museum, we hope to make it through Atlanta and then to Athens, Georgia and finally on to Jubilee.

Being snowed in is not new for those of us who live in Ontario, Canada. The pace of life slows and makes room for a good conversation  to develop over a warm cup of cocoa. I have known Will for at least three years, and thought I knew a lot about Jubilee Partners. Tonight he spent several hours sharing wonderful stories of his 18 years of life in community. I will share more when I am there, but here are some highlights:

•                Jubilee supports many refugees every year. They pick them up from the airport or free them up from detention centers. They give them a home in their community and teach them English and essential skills for living in their new country. They then help settle them in Georgia and beyond.

•                Jubilee members are involved in visiting and supporting people on death row and are advocates against the death penalty. There is a gravesite at Jubilee with the bodies of several men who were executed by the state and who had no one to bury them.

•                Jubilee founder Don Mosley knows President Jimmy Carter and was great friends with Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.

•                Much of the food eaten at Jubilee comes from the food bank or that which they grow. They desire to live simple and frugal lives and to use the resources they receive from donors to the fullest.

•                Living in community is hard work and takes extraordinary commitment. Members agree to live with all things in common and give up much of their autonomy for the good of the community life. (I have probed Will about this a lot and mostly feel that I could not conform in the way he did, but then he shares stories of the many joys of communal life and the unique freedoms it affords, and I reconsider).

•                The one thing that really appeals to me when Will shares his stories is how community life provides an opportunity to live a life for social justice full-time. Serving those in need together makes you more than you could be yourself. It affords a discipline and provides a community of practice that nurtures service and an attitude of giving ad compassion.

 

Well, it's 10:30 on Tuesday night - we hope to visit the civil right museum here in the morning - I so hope it's open - and then, God willing, we'll head over to Jubilee so I can see the community for myself and meet the people I have so come to admire.

 

  

Road Trip – Jubilee Partners. Written by Paul Born, January 13th, 2011

Paul Born is the co-founder and president of the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. He loves community and has extensive experience in helping organizations and communities to develop new and sustainable ideas that motivate people.

This morning Will took me for a walk around the Jubilee Partners Farm. We walked to the very back of the nearly 250 acre property to see the graveyard where 14 people are buried and where at least a half dozen men executed by the state have found rest. Beautiful cement crosses with their names on them, made by the brothers at a local monastery, provide dignity. This place is both beautiful and sobering. Beautiful in that a community was willing to open up their "home" and bury people from death row in the cemetery in which their members will be buried. Sobering in that the bodies they are bringing onto their property belonged to the worst outcasts.

These are mostly people who did horrible things to other human beings, and now they are resting among people whom I would consider modern day saints. There are people in this community, and beyond, who believe in a bodily resurrection. Meaning, they believe that when Jesus returns to Earth, those who have died will rise again (this is one of the reasons some couples buy burial plots beside each other, so they will be able to find each other when this believed resurrection happens). For people in this community who believe in such a resurrection, it means they believe they will rise beside people who died on death row.

I admit that this feels creepy to an ordinary person like me. How could anyone want people who died on death row to be buried in a small private plot where they too will one day be buried? But the people at Jubilee are not ordinary. This is not to say they are weird or even radical, but rather that they have committed to a radical life by committing to their faith, which calls them to live a life of justice as taught in the Christian bible - to feed the hungry, to care for refugees, to visit those in prison.

This morning I visited with Robbie - a very ordinary looking Math teacher who came to Jubilee 30 years ago. His day-to-day routines at Jubilee are also ordinary. You can find him feeding the chickens and the cows, picking and freezing blueberries, taking his turn at cooking or washing dishes.

In addition to all these ordinary activities, he also regularly goes to the Food Bank to pick up various food items for the refugees who live at Jubilee. He also drives several hours each month to spend an entire day visiting people on death row. He shared the story of one prisoner that he has visited monthly now for 15 years who has lost his final appeal and will soon be getting an execution date. When he is not busy with these activities, he and the nearly 30 partners and volunteers that live here provide English lessons to the refugees that live in the five houses on this property. Jubilee has been home to nearly 3,000 refugees over the years. They live here for three months to "catch their breath," learn English and get their strength back.

This is a loving place. I'm not sure there is a better way to describe it. Will lived here for 18 years, and even though he left with his family, he still comes back every year for a visit and to help. As I visit with him in the evenings, he tells story after story of the difference he and this community make. The lives that have been changed.

This is also an influential place. Recognized as a leading influence for social justice. More than 1,000 people visit here every year. Jubilee has even received a visit from former President Jimmy Carter. People here take their work seriously and in turn are taken seriously, even though for many of us we would see them as living out their faith in a somewhat radical way.

I have only been here for 24 hours and my initial impression is that people here are genuine. They do extraordinary things together but as individuals they are pretty ordinary. Will says 80 percent of the community partners are introverts, and by observation I would agree. People here seem fairly reserved. Is this the ideal for community? Could any of us live like this? Could I?

I am not sure I will be able to answer this question by Sunday. Right now it all feels a bit like going to camp and no answers are jumping out at me yet.

Questions arising:

  • Is this place radical?
  • What about freedom of choice?
  • What makes people to want to conform to the many rules here? Are they really rules or just agreements that provide structure and simple order.
  • Does living in common like this provide tangible benefits. Should more of us live like this? If so why are we not?
  • Will has been talking about a hybrid community. Something between a neighborhood and an intentional community like Jubilee. Is this co-housing?
  • What about the focus on social justice?

 


Road Trip – Community Shares and Cares by Paul Born Jan 17, 2011

Blog 7 - Truly Inspired

Paul Born is the co-founder and president of the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagment. He loves community and has extensive experience in helping organizations and communities to develop new and sustainable ideas that motivate people.

At noon today, during the prayer and announcements just prior to lunch, Robbie announced that Emmanuel Hammond received the date of his death sentence, January 25th, 2011. The room fell silent as the community recognized the significance of this moment. Robbie has been visiting Emmanuel monthly for the past 15 years.

Jubilee partners have a long tradition of visiting people on death row. When Emmanuel is executed the partners will host a vigil in downtown Athens. Robbie will most likely hold vigil with people from Open door,  a sister community from Atlanta.

The rhythm of this place provides an environment for caring. I liken it to yeast. When it sits dormant in a jar it is passive. Place it in warm water with a bit of sugar and it becomes active. Add it to flour and some more water and it becomes the central ingredient for bread. In the same way Jubilee seems to take that dormant spark of altruism that sits inside people and turn it into something even more valuable. Partners, those members who have made a life commitment here, might be likened to the starter for sourdough bread, as witnessing their lives becomes an inspiration to those who volunteer or apprentice here. That inspiration is then activated through real life engagement in social issues. Robbie says, "At Jubilee we make it easy to do the right thing."

After just three days here I feel refreshed, renewed, and even restored. Positive energy spreads easily here and the desire to do good for the world is infectious. I will be back, not only to visit, but as both a volunteer and a citizen of the world that needs to heal and be healed.

Jubilee facts:

  • There are 12 long-term partners.
  • There are 13 volunteers, mainly young people, here on 4 month terms.
  • More volunteers apply than they can accept. Dylan Siebert is one of these, a Conrad Grebel College student and from my hometown of Waterloo.
  • There are two apprentices. These are people who  make a one year commitment  to live here in community.  These people usually want to become novices (the path to becoming a partner) or want to apprentice in community living generally. I spent several hours talking with a woman, Kaia,  here who has made this type of commitment.
  • About 35 people show up for meals at lunch and dinner. - On Friday night, Will and I cooked everyone an Indian dinner with blueberry crumble for dessert.
  • They are a faith community, yes, but their faith is expressed by acting for social justice

As a social justice community their work is:

a) To live simply: There is a farm with animals and a large garden, 20 buildings, cars, and machinery that all needs to be cared for. They shop at the Food Bank first, everyone gets the same wage ($15 a week), meals are simple, there's no television, and the pace of life is such that their ecological footprint is small.

b) To support refugees: There are seven houses for refugees, they teach nine English classes a week, they take refugees shopping, to health appointments, and provide general support for three months before     the refugees settle in Atlanta. Jubilee receives donations to do this work from 'friends.' They accept no government funds.

c) To visit people on death row: Various members visit people on death row. In this work, they partner with a group in Atlanta called Open Door.

d) To live in community. They are deliberate about communal life. They make joint decisions, live in common, share responsibilities, care for one another and share their vision. In addition to companionship, they take turns cooking and cleaning, and pray and sing and study together. (I will reflect more on their community life another time).

e) To be a witness to peace. It is not just that this group believes in a world without war; they actively live a life of peace. Their way of living inspires people around the world and more than 1,000 people come to visit every year.

What strikes me most about Jubilee is how productive this place is. How much good gets done everyday. Life here has clear focus. I would sum it up as: 'Take care of this place. Take care of each other. Take care of this world.' There is little distraction from this motto.

Questions arising:

  • How do I get back for a longer visit?
  • Could I live like this?
  • Are there places like this in Canada?
  • Why have I not come to visit here before?
  • Is this an alternative way for us to live in the world? What can we learn from this for the everyday lives of ordinary people doing everyday ordinary things?

 

 

Finding My Voice. Written by Eli Winterfeld, January 12th, 2012 

Eli Winterfeld is finishing up his studies in International Development at the University of Guelph. He was born and raised in an intentional community called Jubilee Partners in Georgia, U.S.A, which facilitates the resettlement of refugees from war torn countries.

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 endeavors 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 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.

 

 

Connecting the Dots. Written by Dylan Siebert, February 17th, 2012

Dylan Siebert is a student in medieval studies at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo. During the summer months, he works as a counselor and canoe trip leader at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, where he enjoys singing, doing dishes and figuring out how to teach kids about climate change. He has done a winter volunteer term at Jubilee in 2011 and helped to organize a road trip to visit Jubilee Partners with 11 other students.  

It's good to revisit the places that have made you who you are.

Early tomorrow morning I will be piling into a minivan with twelve friends on a weeklong road trip to Jubilee Partners, the intentional Christian service community that Eli Winterfeld and Paul Born have blogged about previously on this site. I lived at Jubilee last year for five months (January to May) thanks to Jubilee's resident volunteer program. I'm looking forward to visiting dear friends, as well as connecting my Canadian friends to this humble yet inspiring American community and watching the sparks fly.

Our group members are all students at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, engaged in studies that range from Engineering to Music to International Development. We range in age from first- to fifth-year students, and all of us have an interest in seeing first-hand a place where simple, communal living and radical Christian service intersect. My time at Jubilee last year was among the best of my life. It was the most intense and meaningful part of a year that I will always look back on as pivotal.

It began in the summer of 2010, when my friend Josh and I decided to take one month to educate ourselves about the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto, and then to take part in the demonstrations and public events that were happening around that weekend. Never in my life had I been exposed to the kind of street-level community organizing and palpable compassion that I witnessed and felt that weekend. Volunteers from every walk of life fed, housed, and educated the thousands that gathered in Toronto to protest what is commonly seen as the elitist and exploitative rule of the G20 nations. Those tens of thousands taught me lessons I could never have learned in school. One final, shocking lesson capped the weekend- Josh was dragged away from our group of friends and arrested while ‘passing the peace’ to a police officer during a Sunday afternoon prayer vigil.

Josh spent a harrowing night in jail and was released the next morning. His trumped-up charges took months to clear, and during that time we were forced ask ourselves some hard questions: what was the difference between the treatment we had received at the hands of the state and the goodwill of near-strangers on the street? I spent the following fall on a study abroad term in England, where I was irresistibly drawn to witnessing and taking part in more community organizing. I marched with the November 10 London Student Demonstration against the government’s plan to triple tuition costs, and attended town hall meetings in the small town where I was studying. Among the cultural differences I noticed between Canada and the UK was the readiness there to organize and defend communities from the austerity and hard-economics-first agenda of government.

After Christmas I journeyed on to Jubilee, where the shocks of the previous few months were allowed to shape themselves into questions. Taking part in the Jubilee lifestyle of communal meals, having fun together without electronics, and sharing our lives with refugees who had lived through so much more with so much less than I had, was exactly what I needed. There I was supported by a community who had committed to struggling through life’s tough questions together. I was allowed to ask both elders and people my own age: why have I been given so much? What is it about being white, middle-class, male, and straight that give me—literally—a ticket to any part of the world I choose? What is it about these privileges that had blinded me all my life to their very existence, so evident to anyone who does not have them?

While guilt and hopelessness were immediate possible reactions, the Jubilee community instead allowed me the opportunity to refocus my questioning. They taught me to focus on discerning my own values rather than on how society valued me. They asked what my skills were, rather than my status. They asked what I was willing to share and what I was ready to receive.

This coming week I am hoping to a lot of both. It is a rare and beautiful privilege to find myself at the connecting point between two communities I love and admire, and I’m looking forward to seeing what my Conrad Grebel friends take away from a place that has made such an indelible impression on me.

 

Studying Community. Written by Laura Dyck, February 18th, 2012 

Laura Dyck is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University and part-time community organizer and folk musician. She is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

In just a few hours, I will be joining 12 other students on a weeklong road trip to Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian service community in Georgia.  This is not my first visit—I had the opportunity to stay there briefly on my way to the School of Americas Vigil a couple of years ago, and it left a deep impression on me.  Walking their fields and joining them for communal meals, I was immediately drawn to these people whose interdependence allowed them to live so independently from mainstream cultural norms, and engage in such meaningful work. 

As a Mennonite and an international development student, these are certainly things that I desire for my own life.  Every day I am reminded of the many social and environmental problems associated with the Western lifestyle, and I want to live in a different way.  I want to live generously, not possessively.  Connected to nature, not separated from it.  Selflessly, and in service to others.  Living in this way requires accountability, and I believe that that can only come from a community of like-minded people who are struggling together to realize a common vision. 

This past year, I think I may have found that community.  We are not sharing a common purse, nor are we farming organically.  As full-time students, there wouldn’t be much money in that purse, and there are only so many projects we can take on in addition to our schoolwork.  But together, we are discerning our vocation and opening ourselves to the possibility of living in intentional community. 

The idea is somewhat frightening.  I am 21 years old, and have already moved about 10 times in my life.  I desire a sense of belonging and a clear identity more than anything else, but a life rooted in a specific community is completely foreign to me.  At both Jubilee Partners and another commune I visited in Chicago last year, full members commit to staying in the community until God calls them elsewhere.  Maybe it’s a young adult thing, but my desire to find my place in the world and stay there is matched only by my feeling of restlessness. 

Could I commit to staying in one place?  As an international development student, I know that rootedness and strong relationships are essential for informed and successful community development work.  And yet, this question keeps coming up.  But lately, I’ve realized that my fear of committing to a certain place or group of people is based on a false idea that I need to find the perfect place or group of people to commit to.  Once I began to see a community as dynamic, living thing—the culmination of our collective imaginations, I began to get excited about the idea of working with others to create the community that we want to be a part of. 

I am looking forward to visiting Jubilee Partners, and having the opportunity to reflect on some of my ideas and questions about communal living.  I am sure that that the trip will provoke even more questions than it will answer, and so I hope to continue the conversation on this blog and with my group of fellow travelers in the months and even years after the trip.

 

Decision Making in Intentional Community – Jubilee Case Study. Written by Caleb Gingrich, February 24th, 2012 

Caleb Gingrich is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

An important aspect of living in community is the decision making process - it is one of the aspects of community life that makes it so different from the mainstream lifestyle.  As I learned more about the process, it struck me as an extremely challenging and extremely life-giving process.  It is one that allows conflict and disagreement to strengthen the relationships in the community.

To understand the decision making process, it is first important to discuss the structure of the community.  Different people have different roles at Jubilee, that creates a vocabulary all its own.  Visitors are people such as our group, there to see the community, visiting for a short time.  Volunteers commit to a four month term during which time they assist in the life of the community in a variety of ways, but do not attend the decision making meetings of the partners.  The partners are the core group around which the community is built.  They have made a long term commitment to the community, to participate in the decision making process, to give all of their time to the life and work of the community.  They have committed to a process of discerning God's will, and a set of values and beliefs rooted in love for a just and loving God and following Jesus's teachings.  Each partner is is given a set of responsibilities around the community.  For example, Brad manages general maintenance and the teaching of refuges, while Christina and Blake work on the garden, convincing the red clay soil of Georgia produce fruit, Carolyn keeps the books, and Russ coordinates work schedules.

The partners meet twice a week: once to gather together as a community and share about each other's lives; and once to deal with the business of the community.  In the sharing meeting, partners experiences in the last week are shared.  For example, Brad and his family had just gotten back from a trip with his family when we arrived, so he and his wife would share about their travels during the sharing meeting, instead of discussing it 10 times with each partner separately.  During the business meeting, each partner updates the community on their area of responsibility.  The partners have broad discretionary powers in their specific areas, but generally issues involving a significant use of the communities resources (personal time, volunteer time, money) are decided on as a group.  Brad mentioned that often these meetings are long and mundane, but it is an important way for the community to stay aware of each others work and lives.  Sometimes, when there are especially intense or time consuming decisions to make, the sharing meeting is used to discuss these issues.

Any decision made by the community are made by consensus.  After the issue has been discussed, and voting process is used.  Votes are not cast anonymously: rather, partners all hold up a hand with a certain number of fingers.  Five fingers is enthusiastic support, four support.  Three signifies ambivalence.  Two and one both represent opposition to the decision, with varying degrees of serious concerns, but technically does not block consensus; only a thumbs down does that.  However, in practice, if a two or one is raised, further discussion is had to try and address the concerns.  Brad mentioned that with the dialogue before hand, seeing a one or a thumbs down really represents a failure of the process, as all opinions haven't been heard and addressed.  The five fingered voting process is an important aspect as it allows for quickly getting a sense of where the community is on the decision, while still allowing nuance to be communicated.  

In conversations with Josie in the car, it became clear that these procedures are not the full story.  Much discussion happens outside these formal meetings.  Especially when two partners disagree significantly on an issue, the partners make a point of discussing outside the meetings to come to an understanding of what the other is concerned about, sometimes with a neutral partner present to mediate.  If the issue is particularly contentions, discussion on the topic will be suspended for a period of time while the partners pray about the issue, seeking to free themselves of personal agendas and find God's leading on the issues.  Once this time is over, sometimes the first speaker in the next meeting is chosen by drawing straws, as this can result in people who don't usually speak up speaking first and sharing insights that everyone needs to hear.  Other times each person takes a tern sharing.  It has become clear to me that the cores of this decision making process are fourfold: trust in each other to attend to the decision-making process and participate honestly; significant investment in time and energy in dialoguing to understand the community's views; and a shared set of values that allow the partners to discuss the issues related, although not identical, understandings of the world.  

 

Active Presence – Immersed in Community Life. Written by Joshua Enns, February 24th, 2012 

Joshua Enns is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is also a poet, friend, teacher, learner, follower, leader and peace maker among other things. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

“What kind of healing does this community provide to the refugees it hosts?” The question was directed towards a Partner, one of the long term committed members of the Jubilee Community in Comer.

“We don’t usually provide any typical diagnosis type services. What we offer I like to call active peaceful presence. We try to provide an atmosphere of acceptance and openness. We try to cultivate a sense of caring presence and shared journey where community members are allowed to learn how to live in a new place without pressure.”

In the thick of a week-long visit to the Jubilee community I ask myself, how I can write about this established ‘active presence’ when writing itself is a reflective practice. If words could do it justice, I would explain the love I felt when a refugee child sat in my lap and read me a story about dinosaurs. I would write about how the woods connected the community to the land, to seasons, to a slower deeper rhythm than city life. I would share about hauling wood with leaders and volunteers and sharing work evenly regardless of our positions in the community. However, this sense of active presence, of living and working in the present to address and journey with the needs of the community and those it supports seems incommunicable through text. It is something you need to experience. I can say that so far this week I have been awestruck by the stories that Jubilee Partners shared of their sense of mission and calling towards a hospitable, faith filled, counter-culture life modeled after their faith in Jesus and a God of Love.  

What of the questions I had before the week began? I think that in the thick of active presence I can’t quite do them justice – my experiences will take some reflection and thought to process and integrate but I can comment that so far my time in this intentional community has fulfilled my expectations of meeting people who work in humble, strong willed ways in cultivating the world towards a deeper understanding of love.

 

 

A Window into Community Life. Written by Laura Dyck, February 24th, 2012 

Laura Dyck is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University and part-time community organizer and folk musician. She is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

My time at Jubilee has been incredible so far. The Partners have so generously welcomed us into almost all aspects of their shared lives. In this blog post, I’ll give you a glimpse into life at this long-standing intentional Christian service community. 

An important part of community life is shared meals.  Twice a day, the bell rings and invites everyone in from the fields and forest for delicious lunches and suppers in the Koinonia House.  Before lunch, there is always a time of worship, which includes scripture reading, reflection, prayer, and group singing.  I have been impressed by the way that people of all ages and cultures are involved in these worship services.  On the first day, a 5-year-old led a song in his native Karen, and the community songbook is filled with songs in many languages.  After worship, lunch is served.  The community’s food ethics are evident in the meals.  As much food as possible is grown at Jubilee (the rest is purchased or donated by the food bank), meat is only served on Sundays, and dessert is only offered twice a week.  The meals are all very satisfying and healthy, especially when accompanied by great conversation.  And everyone, no matter their status in the community, shares in meal preparation and clean-up.  Many hands make light work!

This is also true for the chores that fill the working hours of the day.  Everyone, even visitors, take part in the work.  Although the daily schedule is fairly routine, tasks vary from day to day, keeping things relatively interesting.  As university students who rarely get the chance to detach ourselves from computers, we are thankful to take part in outdoor jobs, such as mulching, chopping wood, and harvesting food.  My favourite job so far has been helping out with the ESL classes for refugees.  I took part in the intermediate class on Tuesday and pretended to be a new neighbour to the 5 Karen women in the class, so that they could practice English phrases for inviting people over, giving people directions, and initiating small talk.  The spirit of hospitality was even present in this class, as one of the women actually invited me over to her house afterward, even though I was a complete stranger to her.  In everything we do at Jubilee, relationship-building seems to be just as important as the task at hand, and there is always room for meaningful conversation.  And while everyone shares in the less-glamourous tasks like cleaning, everyone seems to be able to focus their time on jobs that they find meaningful and interesting, like working in the garden, caring for refugees, or doing pastoral work.  Because of this, and because all of the work is clearly essential to the service work and daily functioning of the community, everyone seems to have a strong sense of purpose and motivation.  While work is casual, no one looks over each other’s shoulders, an incredible amount is accomplished and people feel very satisfied at the end of each day. 

My experiences of community life at Jubilee have been very positive so far, and I look forward to writing more about the community’s work and philosophy in a later post.  Needless to say, the trip has been very impactful so far, and is inspiring many thoughts and ideas around communal living.

 

 

Privilege to Peruse Purpose – A Journey to Jubilee Partners. Written by Joshua Enns, February 24th, 2012 

Joshua Enns is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is also a poet, friend, teacher, learner, follower, leader and peace maker among other things. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

When I try to explain who I am, I often find myself quickly describing the communities I exist, work, and play in. Growing up as a pastors kid, I have a history of spending time devoted to Mennonite church community. Long days spent at church meetings, playing made up games in the church parking with other children waiting for parents, years of youth groups, Christian camps, and Mennonite foods. Church community picnics in the park, church community shrimp fishing, church community worship – I could go on.

However, as I near the end of a university degree in mathematics and education and prepare to say farewell to the Conrad Grebel Community I have learned to call home over the past five years, I realize I have an amazing opportunity and priviledge to choose to spend my life somewhere, working for something. In the past, I have simply followed the paths that opened to me which naturally led me from Christian community to Christian community (along with small thoughtful sabbaths of the soul and quick, jaring, life-changing rollercoster moments amongst anarchist, activist, social justice oriented, autonomous, peace-making, potlucking, french, sport and other less identifiable communities). Now, with a degree in education, I have the opportunity and a sense of maturity to begin to grasp the idea of limiting oneself to a specific place to work, laugh and love with specific people for specific purposes and a dream to help change the world.

What people? What purposes? What work? How can we change the world? These questions are slowly filling my soul. I have decided to look at how Christ followers and others have sought to answer these questions in the context of community living in the hope that it gives me some insight and provides me with a path forward. To this end, I am committed to visit at least two communities in the next few months, Jubilee Partners in Georgia, USA and The Iona Community in Scotland.

I first heard about Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian community, from a good friend who volunteered there for several months. The stories he shared about communal living and working with refugees made me want to see the place for myself. The next thing I knew we were organizing a trip down to visit and learn. Now as we prepare to depart I find three ideas and hopes on my mind.

1. This trip will be the beginning of a larger goal and movement towards intentional understanding, living and working in and with community.

2. How living with people who know you, know all of the parts and dimensions of you, is often hard but worth it. It makes you feel accepted and at home.

3. How and why people choose to live in places like Jubilee Partners, communities that are powerfully humble and loving “in scorn of the consequences” (With our Own Eyes: The dramatic story of a Christian response to the wounds of war, racism, and oppression by Don Mosley)

I am excited to meet some of the people I have heard and read about as I begin my search for places and reasons to love, live, and work in humble, strong willed, intentional communities in the hopes of sculpting myself, those I exist around, and the world towards a deeper understanding of love.

 

 

Re-learning Our Place in Community. Written by Mike Chong, February 26th, 2012 

Mike Chong is a student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

Some introduction and context here, otherwise this post is kind of meaningless.  Myself and a group of friends went down to Jubilee Partners, a community down in Comer, Georgia.  This is a reflection on that experience.

I guess I could tell you that that a lot of it was about learning.  'Learning' being my primary purpose for the past twenty some odd years of my life, and probably something I want to continue to do.  My time in school right now is jam-packed full to the brim with learning.  But the 'learning' that takes place in the institution I attend is moulded unforgivingly around a very specific concrete structure of education.  Don't get me wrong, though - structure is important.  It's the structure of my learning that gives me something for my mind to grasp on to, to grip on to and motivate myself.  As someone at Jubilee told us (I don't remember exactly who - and this is not a direct quote), it's the structure of the schedule that holds the place together and gets things done.  But I find that when I am too strictly driven by my schedule, shaped too unyieldingly by the structure of my educational institution, that things grow sour.

Let me put it this way - as a child learning, it was important to have structure.  To build a certain paradigm up that the world was something bigger than just me.  But as I progressed further and further down this educational track laid out for me, the paradigm it was building became more and more focused on one thing - getting me a job.  It was giving me as much opportunity as I could ask for to do whatever it was that I wanted that provided me with a stable source of income.  But the more I look at the massive educational institution that I am a part of, the more I feel it is forcing me through the grinders of a very one-track style of learning and living.

But let's hear a little more about Jubilee.  It's hard to put into words, but in many, many ways my time at Jubilee was good.  I think the first thing that struck me were the stories.  Beautiful, personal, relational stories, drawn out in organic, casual conversation.  And put this in stark contrast to the high-pressure, forced atmosphere of my classes, to me it was something very good.  There was so much more meaning, purpose, out of having personal context.  Remember that point.  Meaning from personal context.  And so, in my mind, motivation, conversation, learning, grew organically, and beautifully, out of a well-kept soil.  And to me, most importantly, was the flexibility of structure - of schedules, of people, and of intention.  I came to this community with big, idealistic, dreams of what a good community looks like, waiting to have them shattered.  I'll let you decide whether or not this was good or bad, but at Jubilee, they were not shattered.  They were very much affirmed.  Let me explain.

So these personal, relational stories at Jubilee build up flexible, organic paradigms.  My educational institution, on the other hand, builds up idealistic, concrete paradigms.  Occasionally, it will have one shattered, when, say Newtonian physics becomes inadequate to describe certain phenomena, but, for the most part, the tools we have created to describe our world, our ways of thinking, are meant to be perfect, objective, true-for-everyone.  Ironically, it is when we hold too tightly onto finding what is perfect for our lives that the inflexibility of these paradigms quickly creates rifts when put up against the phenomena of community.  And so the flexible, organic, personal, nature of Jubilee is important.  It's important, not just in terms of ways of thinking, but also in our own personal goals and desires.  And while this flexibility requires us to give up a lot of ourselves, it also means that we are being cared for, and there is room for us to grow.  In the acceptance of our imperfection we are made complete in community.

So, it turns out that where in school I am learning to build up individualistic, self-serving ways of thinking, intended to build myself up, in community, we should be constantly having our paradigms shattered, wiping clean again everything that we have built up (if you don't know it, look up the meaning of the word 'Jubilee').  But, in community, we rebuild our broken, imperfect paradigms back up again around the meaning in our common context.  And while there seems to be a paradox here - we are trying to find the 'common context' through recognition of each of our diverse, unique, personal stories of context - the 'common context' is found in community.  It is found in us each trying to wrap our imperfect minds around each other, shattering our paradigms, but to build them up again together, to find the meaning out of the context of relationship with each other.  And also to recognize the meaning written into creation through the context of our relationship with the earth.  And so perhaps it's about finding common meaning in the context of personal stories and relationships.

I guess I could tell you that it was about a whole lot of learning.

 

 

In the Thick of Jubilee Life. Written by Dylan Siebert February 26th, 2012 

Dylan Siebert is a student in medieval studies at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo. During the summer months, he works as a counselor and canoe trip leader at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, where he enjoys singing, doing dishes and figuring out how to teach kids about climate change. He has done a winter volunteer term at Jubilee in 2011 and helped to organize a road trip to visit Jubilee Partners with 11 other students.  

This blog is Chapter 1.5 of our group reflections on our trip to Jubilee Partners in Georgia, written Wednesday February 22 but not uploaded until now because of the rickety internet connection at Jubilee! We are a group of eleven students from Conrad Grebel University College on a weeklong learning trip to this Southern community, whose shared work is to offer hospitality to refugees.

Meeting in Shady Grove tonight, our lovely guest house here at Jubilee, we went through what has become a nightly ritual of sharing highs and lows of the day. Many group members had trouble picking out a low, but most agreed that the most challenging part of this visit is not becoming overwhelmed by all the good energy that we feel in this community.

One high that kept coming up is the incredible opportunity for intergenerational storytelling that Jubilee affords. Our afternoon session today with Don Mosley was a rare treat for the ears. Having travelled to many countries on peacemaking trips and launched Habitat for Humanity projects around the world, Don is brimming with stories of what a bold, committed group of individuals can accomplish when they work together. Many of us are enrolled in or have taken classes through the Peace and Conflict Studies department at Conrad Grebel back in Waterloo, and it has been invaluable to hear stories from and share meals with older adults committed to peacemaking.

Other group members commented on what a beautiful experience it was to take part in English classes or childcare at the Jubilee school, where communication can be limited by language barriers. One student's high of the day was spending the morning playing with a child from Burma whose family came to the US as refugees and who speaks no English- in the language of children's play, no translation is needed.

We have all felt enormously the quieter atmosphere and slower pace of rural life, too. Most of us serve a desk all day as we study or work part-time in the city, and it has been a real joy to ride in the back of a pickup truck, haul wood, and tackle a tenacious patch of brambles with a machete. Petting baby goats was also a treat, and visiting with a newborn calf that took its first steps into this world early Tuesday morning! We have been impressed by the way that living close to the land and minimizing their negative impact on it has been adopted by Jubilee folks not as an explicit ideology, but as a natural expression of their quest for right relationship with God and with all human beings.

These are our impressions for now; many more will follow, and our evening conversations often bring to light aspects of the day and of this community that we hadn't considered in the thick of things. Work, play, sharing, eating, making music- all of these are hard work, and we look forward to one more day before we head back to Waterloo and Canada.

 

A few group members getting ready to lead noon-hour devotions in the Koinonia House, Jubilee's main meeting space, on Wednesday. The woodstove in the background and the communal arrangement of tables for meals speak volumes about Jubilee people's commitment to living simply together.

 

 

Libraries and Jubilee. Written by Dylan Siebert, February 29th, 2012

Dylan Siebert is a student in medieval studies at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo. During the summer months, he works as a counselor and canoe trip leader at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, where he enjoys singing, doing dishes and figuring out how to teach kids about climate change. He has done a winter volunteer term at Jubilee in 2011 and helped to organize a road trip to visit Jubilee Partners with 11 other students. 

This afternoon around 2:15, the power went out throughout a large swath of Waterloo Region.

I was at St. Jerome’s University Library, where I work part-time, trying to help a patron coax a stubborn photocopier into action. Without warning, the machine let out a tiny sigh and died under my hands, as the entire building settled into the murk of emergency lighting.

Suddenly there was no photocopier, printer, book desensitizer, clock, electric pencil sharpener, proper lighting, access to the computerized book sign-out system, or even a timed mechanism to keep the doors from automatically locking. But librarians are never dismayed, and we pulled out the backup book charging system (otherwise known as pen and paper) and an ancient wooden wedge to keep the door open.

About ten minutes into the power outage, a patron approached me at the circulation desk and asked for help finding a book. At first I expressed regret that my computer had powered down and that I couldn’t run the search for him, but when he mentioned that he was looking for Catcher in the Rye I thought again. American Literature is one of the library sections under my personal care, and I felt fairly confident that I could find his book even in the dark.

As we crouched between the shelves peering through the gloom for a glimpse of J. D. Salinger, we started chatting. The normal rules of staying hushed in the library seemed to have vanished with the lights, and I learned that he was a math student who wanted to reread the books that had been part of his high school curriculum. We agreed that it’s often hard to fully grasp a book the first time through, and that reading is always more enjoyable when it isn’t mandatory.

With the eventual help of a flashlight, we found the book in question (thank goodness it was bright orange). I traipsed back to the circulation desk to mark down his name and the book’s title. There was a feeling of festivity around the desk, as the head librarians met to discuss whether or not to send everyone home. But looking across the dim room, I noticed that half a dozen students were still glued to their computer monitors, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around them. Temporary backup power had kicked in to support the public computers, and everyone seemed determined not to let the forces of technological chaos stop them from squeezing in a few more minutes of work.

I always feel excited during power outages, but never before had I felt such a palpable sense of freedom from the routines that kept me bound to my desk chair and my computer screen. Electricity is the backbone of our way of life, and it's amazing to consider that even the smallest break in the chain of supply can leave us without heat, without clean water, even without meaningful work to do.

Or can it? My visit to the Jubilee Partners community last week reminded me that working for people you know and love is always meaningful, even when it’s difficult. Shovelling mulch or cleaning diapers are not fun tasks, but they are redeemed by the luminescent quality of co-operation. It’s the ‘me-ness’ of slaving away before a computer to produce single-use school assignments that can make the modern university student’s life agonizing.

The people of the Jubilee community in Georgia intentionally limit their computer access to a handful of ancient terminals tucked away in the shared office space. When I lived there last year, I appreciated immensely this conscious separation of ‘computer time’ and ‘together time’. While long-distance communication technology is a wonderfully potent means of connecting humans and building community (I submit this blog as evidence), I have all too often felt the computer transform itself under my fingertips from a means into an end. A useful tool such as email all too quickly masters us, until, like the parent of a crying baby, we find ourselves shaping our routines around its demands, rather than the other way around.

This is the basic idea put forward by Ivan Illich, a late great thinker of the twentieth century whose writings I have come into contact with through my involvement at The Working Centre here in downtown Kitchener. Illich decried the enormous and rapid growth in the power and complexity of human tools during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He pointed out that tools invented to serve people (vehicles, factories, schools, governments, modern medicine) had grown so huge and powerful that people in fact spent most of their time serving them instead. He saw a massive society-wide scaling back of industrial production and institutionalization as the key to answering many of the nightmares faced by today’s world: social control, poisoning of the biosphere, even existential funk.

Where I see Illich’s insight connecting with the idea of community is the insight that human life, even human social life, has a natural size and shape to it. We can’t keep up with three hundred friends on facebook any more than we can build an Apple computer from scratch. There are some feats that simply can’t be accomplished without taking advantage of the labour of machines or of people being treated as machines.

When I went to live at Jubilee last year as a resident volunteer, I was happy to leave my MacBook behind. The Jubilee life implies a decision to communicate primarily with the people who are physically close to us, and that decision manifests itself strongly in Jubilee’s practice of literally living side by side with refugees. But at the same time that I was spending more time hanging out with the friends I lived with (and consequently checking my email less frequently), I was also developing my skills at letter-writing by hand, a process that took much more time and care, and which has since proved unspeakably rewarding.

So why am I sitting here at the library desk hammering my thoughts into the silicon brain of a computer?  I believe tools have their proper use. I think that Paul Born and the Tamarack Institute have given us a great tool by allowing us to blog so vociferously about our experiences, not to mention sponsoring our road trip. Will this tool now start to use me? Time will tell.

I also believe that a little jolt, a trip outside of the ordinary such as a power outage or a road trip to visit a Christian commune, can make especially clear what we’re working against- and what we’re working for. I think that as things stand now, we’re actually really bad at imagining what life would be like without the modern tools whose environment we have adapted ourselves to survive in. Jubilee folks have taken steps toward stepping down the ladder of technology and privilege, not as a result of technophobia or tree-hugging hippiehood, but rather as a studied response to the forces that divide us and keep us from realizing the communities we dream of.

I also reserve the right to allow my thoughts to grow to their natural, unstunted size. If you have read this far, I applaud you and humbly thank you. Now turn off your computer and go take a walk. But first, take a second to affirm the fact that we both exist. Leave a comment.

 

 

The Farmer Theologian and The Vagrant Son of God. Written by Joshua Enns, March 2nd, 2012

Reality. 

Joshua Enns is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is also a poet, friend, teacher, learner, follower, leader and peace maker among other things. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

Jubilee - the year where the Hebrew people where to upset the established power structure in their society and restart on more equal footing for all. Jubilee Partners – an intentional Christian community that provides space, place, language and the invitation to embark on a journey of love to those who have lost their place, lands, and lives due to oppressive power structures and conflicts.

What people? What purposes? What work? Two weeks ago, these leading questions prompted my introspective thought on the upcoming trip to Jubilee Partners in Comer. Now, after the trip, I sit and try to find time to think. I have put thinking on hold for a week. Midterms, schoolwork, dishes and memorizing proofs about the infinitude of primes occupied me. Occupation is consuming – my thoughts drowned in polynomials with integer coefficients (mod p). Fortunately, occupation does not last forever – I find time to sit. I find time to read scribbled notes from last week and I find time to think.  

I think the questions of people, purpose and work have seductive, oversimplified answers within the thought train of Christian community.

People? Everyone. Especially the marginalized (prisoners, homeless, poor, addicts) for that is where God is.

Purpose? To fully live, constantly called to return to the path of love in deeper and more sincere ways.  

Work? Embodying love (Jesus, Romero, the radical Martin Luther King Jr. etc.) in the world.

The problem with these answers is there is no clear-cut Google map route. Navigating the road of true life is not that simple. The Jubilee community, if anything, shouts that loud and clear. Yet, they try to swim the murky river of faith-based decision making every day. They are not perfect. In many ways they rely on systems of domination to exist and by so doing perpetrate the systems they work to end (i.e. donations that come from the mechanisms of capitalism, which by its existence oppresses people around the world). Yet they do good work, especially with refugee families. They make peace; establish empathy, change lives and swim towards hope. Seeing their community made me think hey, I could do that too. In short, what Jubilee Partners is doing is working to increase the love in the world. They are a group of farmer theologians who live with the land, get dirty, make mistakes and try to love against the tides of individualistic, violent, capitalistic North American culture.

How does experiencing Jubilee change me? How do I fold this inside of myself? How does it fold me inside of it? It inspires me to continue seeking. To continue living in search of life and ask how to make my faith active in ways that turn oppressive power on its head through the humble force of love. (If you are reading this consider watching this: “The Cost of True Oil” and getting people to sign this: PETITION to act in love of the earth :).  

“The only solution is love, and love comes with community” (Dorothy day)

 

The Reality of Love (A poem inspired by those I met at Jubilee Partners and those I travelled with) 

Soft, true lips. Bodies open to embrace touch.

Clothes, walls, fear – fall to the earth overwhelmed by love

Rough, good-working hands. Cut and calloused fingers interlock and clutch.

 Isolation, emptiness, busyness – fall to the earth overwhelmed by relationship

Strong, intentioned feet. Dancing and determined to destroy the distance between us.

Disparity, apathy, normalcy – fall to the earth overwhelmed by interconnectivity

 

Soft, true lips.

Rough, good-working hands.

Strong, intentioned feet.

 

Meet here. Meet now.

Inside me. Inside us.

You are the midwives of life.

 

Love.

Relationship.

Interconnectivity.

 

Meet here. Meet now.

Inside me. Inside us.

You are the midwives of life.

 

Incite understanding of the past,

Burning passion for the present and,

Holy hope for the future.

 

Jubilee: A Sense of Belonging, in a well-paced life.  Written by Caleb Gingrich, March 2nd, 2012 

Caleb Gingrich is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

One of the most distinctive parts of Jubilee is the social culture.  It is a warm and welcoming community, but not in the typical sense.  When we arrived a Jubilee, we were warmly and calming welcomed by Dan Mosley, who showed us where to go, and expressed his gratitude.  After we had dumped our stuff in our new living quarters, our two designated hosts came and welcomed us with an information about where and when supper was, and that orientation would be moved.  There wasn't anyone waiting for us specifically, the community hadn't gathered to welcome us all at once.  There wasn't a bunch of fanfare, loud, excited people obnoxiously shaking your hand and demanding you recognize their warm welcome.  The welcome came later.

Even at supper, I found that people didn't go out of their way to great and meet us new visitors.  Everyone was friendly, but the responsibility to initiating discussion was shared equally from the get go.  We were expected to be a part of the community social setting as equals, not as special, honored guests.  This fact was the beginning of the welcome.

During my time at Jubilee, I felt a profound sense of acceptance, of freedom to be myself, and that who I was had value. I was not valued for my skills, or my abilities, but for who I am, as a human, as a child of God.  What I did that week, the contributions I made to the community, were valued because I made them, and offered them willingly, not because of their quality.  There wasn't any pressure to perform at a certain level: I've never felt so free to sing openly, unafraid of judgment, at Jubilee.  I knew the sounds would be valued because I offered them from a place of joy, to the community and to God.  

Another member of the group shared a similar sense.  She knew she wasn't the greatest at mulching blueberry bushes - its hard work, that she isn't used to, and she wasn't very fast at it.  But she was welcomed onto the blueberry mulching team every day that week: no one ever tried to find her another job more suited to her skills.  The point isn't optimizing the community's productivity - the point was working together to get the work done at a reasonable pace.  

This brings me to another important aspect of the social culture at Jubilee.  Life moves at a reasonable pace.  The community doesn't rush from one thing to the next, trying frantically to get everything done in the day even though it is clearly impossible.  Don't get me wrong, you work at Jubilee.  But you work from 8:30 to 11:30, take a break for devotions and lunch, and then from 1 to 5:30.  This is when work happens, and in this time everyone works.  But there isn't the sense of urgency that I at least live with on a daily basis as I jump from one impending deadline to the next, barely able to keep up.  I remember a comment a Partner made to another one of our group when he was late for getting back to make supper.  He was told to go, but don't run.  It isn't that big a deal.  Don Mosely also summed it up well: "a productive life isn't a busy life, it is a prayerful one."  How can I incorporate that truth into my life?  I'd like to live in a place of unconditional acceptance and value, that operates at a pace more suited to a healthy, reflective, productive life.  I think that is much easier with a community of people surrounding you that agree, constantly reinforcing this attitude. 

 

 

Re-valuing our thyme. Written by Mike Chong, March 4th, 2012

Mike Chong is a student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

So a week ago today, we were on our way back from Jubilee Partners.  And as my trip-mates who have been long awaiting this post can attest to, I am very much constrained by time.  It's been the theme of the week.  From midterm exams to assignment deadlines, I've been driven hour to hour by the time constraints of my schedule. 

But as seems to be consistent with every the theme in my life, it all leads back to community.  Remembering back to Jubilee, I recall a strong sense of being at ease.  There was a lack of that weight, that burden of being driven by a strict schedule.  And I don't think it was simply because I was on break.  If I were to try to put my finger on the difference, I would describe it as a shift in priority.  In school right now, I am being taught that my priority lies in efficiency.  In producing the best - or at the very least, the most - work physically possible in a given amount of time.  And so I bear the heavy weight of my time constraints.

But at Jubilee, the priority seemed to me to lie in the development of personal, human relationships.  All else followed naturally.  The work we were doing was all done to maintain and support the community, and it was all done around conversation, and done with no sense of requirement or urgency except for the understanding that we all wanted to be a part of this contribution together, a part of something beautiful together.  (Perhaps also what I enjoyed was the fact that I was outside in fresh air and natural light as opposed to stuck to my computer all day…)

And, as these kinds of themes tend to do when I notice them, this change in priority, of community over efficiency, has reared its head in other aspects of my life as well.  Earlier this week, some of us attended a lecture held by an organization in Waterloo looking at alternatives to ‘growth economies’.  The premise was that all major economies in the world right now are based around the concept of stability through growth.  It’s something that arguably every world leader today would take for granted.  And it’s obvious that this pattern is unsustainable given the fact that we live in a limited biosphere.

So the ‘big question’ as I understood it was – how do we restructure our society to live with a ‘steady state’ economy, not one so blindly focused on growth?  And I think the answer comes in this ‘shift in priority’ theme I have been exploring.  Though I by no means would claim to be an economist, I think there is something fundamentally simple, and necessary to revaluing social relationships, and our relationship with the earth ahead of everything else, in particular, material goods.  And it seems so blatantly obvious a concept.  But I really think this calls us to drop everything we have, strengthen our ties into our local communities, recognize the beauty in our relationship with the earth, and then try again to build our lives around our social relationships. 

 

Community at Home. Written by Laura Dyck, March 5th, 2012 

Laura Dyck is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University and part-time community organizer and folk musician. She is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

Last night, it was wonderful to meet up again with the group of twelve Conrad Grebel students who travelled to Jubilee Partners two weeks ago.  It's amazing to be part of this community that is growing out of a desire to learn more about community.  As we sat in a circle and enjoyed a potluck feast, we shared our reflections on the trip and engaged in a fascinating discussion about the possibilities for intentional community in our own lives.

One of the things that struck me most about Jubilee Partners was the strength of both the community and the individuals who live and work there.  While many intentional communities dissolve because of interpersonal conflict, Jubilee has remained a strong and dynamic community for over 30 years.  The Partners’ faith and common commitment to living Christian lives has carried them through even the most difficult times, and the importance of their mission of hospitality continues to motivate their daily work.

Community seems to happen naturally at Jubilee, but our learning sessions with the Partners made us aware of how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep the community running smoothly.  It was clear to us that the weekly work schedule was integral to life at Jubilee.  It equalized people by dividing up difficult jobs.  It gave everyone, even visitors, a role in the community and ensured that time was spent purposefully.  It also ensured that the community accomplished everything it wanted to do.  So often in our individual lives, we make resolutions to improve ourselves or live out our values, but we “run out of time” to do these things.  But at Jubilee, when the community decides to take on a project, it gets done because people are simply scheduled to do it.  A little discipline, routine, and accountability in daily living can go a long way, considering how much anxiety and frustration we experience when we feel that are not living out our values.

              Discipline—especially spiritual discipline—is also a very significant source of personal strength for the Partners.  Don Mosley, one of the founding Partners, shared with us some stories from his life.  I’ll never forget his statement that a productive life is a prayerful life, not a busy life.  All of the Partners spend time in prayer and worship each day, which brings them peace and strength to make it through tough times.  The book, With Our Own Eyes, described the early days of Jubilee and made it clear that the community’s decision to spend more time in prayer was a major turning point in their history, and completely changed how they approached their daily lives and work.  I think that their incredible ability to resolve conflicts and live well together is largely the result of their spiritual discipline and their individual commitment to live out love.

              It was interesting for me to return from this trip at the beginning of Lent, which, for Christians, is a season of repentance and re-focusing on God and relationships.  The last two weeks since Jubilee have been a very meaningful time for me as I reflect on my priorities in life and how I can live more intentionally in relation to God, the earth, and the people around me.  Right now, this means adopting a practice of daily journaling, which I hope will allow me to reflect on my daily living and relationships, and find the strength to live the life that I want to be living.  It also means entering into discussion with others about the possibilities for living in intentional community now and in the future.  Our trip to Jubilee has already inspired some incredible ideas and discussions, and I am excited to see what is in store for the future! I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of something great.

 

 

Jubilee: Fertile Ground for Growing Solutions. Written by Caleb Gingrich, March 5th, 2012

Caleb Gingrich is a full-time student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

Don Mosley, one of the founders of Jubilee, and in many ways the visionary of the community, spent an hour sharing about his life experience and current projects midway through the week.  It was a beautiful afternoon, after we had just spent three days working hard, and the last hour relaxing, so we were sleepy.  But for me, and many others, it was one of the most powerful parts of the trip.  One of the comments Don made during that time way proclaimed that community is fertile ground for discovering, cultivating and harvesting solutions to the world's problems.  It is a good testing ground for ideas, so the harvests are richer: the solutions are more apt, more powerful.  As a person who is captivated by the challenges of solving issues of sustainability, and was becoming more and more intrigued with this concept of community, this comment caught my attention.  Here is why I think community in general, and Jubilee in particular, is fertile ground.  

Rooted in Creation 

Nature plays an important role in the life of Jubilee.  The lands of the community serve as retreat space, reflecting space.  The land also sustains the community through the work of the garden, and everyone is reminded of that with every meal, as sweet potatoes and blueberries make up a large portion of the Jubilee diet.  Even if a Partner hasn't worked in the garden recently, they certainly have heard from the Partners who did in the past week, and they've walked by the gardens.  When you are surrounded by nature, reflecting in it, working with it for your food, you become rooted in it, and it is hard to get caught up your life.  You are constantly reminded of the bigger picture, the knowledge you don't have, and this helps created good solutions.  But this sense of rootedness also bring a peace, and a hope, that motivates and sustains the creative process.

Connected with trust

I was struck by the trust everyone in the community was given, but especially the trust the Partners demonstrated for each other.  Each is trusted to make good decisions in their work, in their specific role, and has broad discretionary powers over their area of responsibility.  I also talked to Josie about what a Partner would be expected to do if they were feeling unable to participate in a communal meal or devotions because of conflict in the community - it was clear from the stories we heard that emotions run high sometimes.  She said that if the partner didn't show up, that would be understood, despite their lack of participation in important community events.  The partners are trusted to make the decision that is best for the community as a whole.  I find this trust in relationships remarkable - to not feel slighted, or suspicious, but confident in other choosing what is best for you and the community without having participated in the decision. It is this kind of trust that creative collaborations must be founded on, because the creative process is a risky process, it requires trying, and failing, having and testing bad ideas.  But when one is able to do this with a group of people one trusts, and that brings many new viewpoints, the idea is bound to be shaped for the better, issues spotted and resolved.  The creative process also is life giving and energizing.  

I'm sure there are other fertilizers present in the ground at Jubilee, but these are the ones that stick out for me.  As I read this over, it sounds like Jubilee is idyllic, a perfect space to be creative, where perfect ideas can be plucked off of the trees.  That isn't the case: the creative process is still hard, and Jubilee isn't perfect, but I think the space, the environment that Jubilee creates aids in the process of finding solutions, be they big or small, to many of the worlds complex problems.

 

Re-turning The Soil. Written by Mike Chong, March 16th, 2012

Learning the Language of Community

 Mike Chong is a student at Conrad Grebel University. He is one of the twelve students who took a weeklong road trip to visit Jubilee Partners.

So what now?  The more and more time I spend away from Jubilee, the more I am finding the things that I learned there becoming real and relevant.  I think it no coincidence that Jubilee was called to offer hospitality to refugees, and that they offer to teach English as a second language.

I think that perhaps the very existence of language speaks to the heart of our desire for community.  To find what is common in each of our personal, subjective, individual experiences, and to talk about it, to experience it together.  And diversity is the driving force behind community, the lens through which we recognize what parts of our lives, what parts of our language have grown old and stale, and need to be broken down again into the soil, to allow fresh, new, organic and meaningful language and experience to grow again.  And it is this dialogue, this constant re-shaping of our intentions and our understanding, this turning over of the soil and focusing on forming deep, personal relationships through a continued understanding and search for a common context, or common language, or common ground from which to grow exciting things.

Actually, here's a spoken word piece I wrote while at Jubilee, it expresses this idea well, I think: 

 

I am learning a language

 

One relatively new to me though,

One where meaning comes not from words,

but a language in which the tools of meaning are context

And context comes from stories,

where every thing, every word, has a story

 

And though we each come with our own story,

though we speak out of context,

we understand out of context shared,

that our tools of understanding are relationships

we understand relationships with each other,

we understand relationships with the earth

and we articulate the meaning written into creation.

and we understand, through context, the beauty that has been set into motion.

 

But, somewhere, when we take the human individual out of our tools of language,

we enslave our individualistic selves to our tools,

and build our empty tools into efficient systems,

Empires of systems built of empty tools and individualistic selves propped up on the back of the most inhuman systems

 

And it is from these systems that we seek refuge

But in the refuge we seek, we find Jesus - in this new language we learn

 

A language of peace.

Of peace that passes understanding of context,

but that reaches beyond the broken egg-shell pieces of our context to pass us understanding

understanding grown in a garden of shared context,

of shared stories fertilized with our broken-eggshell selves.

 

And so we sacrifice a couple pieces of ourselves to be built into a larger mosaic,

and we share a couple stories of ourselves to be grown into a new garden.

 

And so I am learning a language

I am learning a language of community

because it is in community where the word becomes flesh,

and it is in each other that we find Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

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