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Nurturing Communities

Reba Place Nurtures Communities
This year a gathering of representatives from Intentional Christian Communities all across the nation will be taking place in Minnesota, September 25-26, 2012 at St.John’s Abbey in Collegeville MN, just prior to the 2012 CCDA National Conference. This is the third annual Nurturing Communities Gathering and is sponsored by Reba Place Fellowship as part of their Nurturing Communities Project.

 Reba Place Nurtures Communities

This year a gathering of representatives from Intentional Christian Communities all across the nation will be taking place in Minnesota, September 25-26, 2012 at St.John’s Abbey in Collegeville MN, just prior to the 2012 CCDA National Conference. This is the third annual Nurturing Communities Gathering and is sponsored by Reba Place Fellowship as part of their Nurturing Communities Project.

Reba Place Fellowship, a Mennonite church and intentional community, was founded in 1957 by three people sharing life and possessions in one house just north of Chicago. Now Reba Place is the oldest intentional community in America. They have been through many iterations during the past 55

years but recently have felt a calling to mentor younger intentional communities. Since 2004, their mission statement reads “The calling of Reba Place Fellowship is to extend the mission of Jesus by being a community of love and discipleship and by nurturing other such communities as God gives us grace.”   

Reba Place has accomplished this mission through the Nurturing Communities Project under the leadership of David Janzen. David’s experience in Intentional Christian communities spans four decades. He calls Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove “apostles of the current intentional communities movement” and credits them for inspiring so many young people starting new communities. However, David noticed that there are few pastors in the movement so very little shepherding is occurring with the individual groups. These communities are filled with people who are fanatical about loving Jesus, and who want others to share that journey and although there are churches who follow the same Jesus, because the way of life is structured so differently in intentional community, the input of these church pastors may not be helpful. Therefore, many of these communities struggle to find their way on their own. Shane and Jonathan recognised the need for community mentors and connectors and were the first to put money toward the Nurturing Communities Project.

As part of the initiative, David, along with a few others, visit intentional communities visit with community members prayerfully generate, a report detailing what the team sees the spirit doing in their community and this report is presented to the community leaders. David likens the process to the angels visiting the churches in Revelation and giving a report. The process helps shape the direction of Reba Place and the intentional communities he visits.

The annual Nurturing Communities Gathering (September 25-26) is a time if learning, worship and sharing meals together. Just like an individual needs community, communities often need the connection and experience of a whole community of communities. An environment is fostered at the gathering where people discover their struggles are common and benefit from the stories and communion of like-minded people with similar hearts and experiences. 

David’s conviction is that new communities need to grow in depth and maturity, to be grounded in Jesus who makes the sacrifice of communal living meaningful. Without this grounding, they can easily be absorbed back into the outside culture with a few hippy trappings left over attempting to demonstrate they are still different. Society as a whole is headed in an unsustainable direction and almost all young people know that. They see that the consumer rat race is unfulfilling but they do not know where to turn. Conversely, intentional communities often underestimate the significance and impact of their Gospel lifestyles. The handfuls of people who are struggling in obscurity need to be reminded that how they are living and what they are doing is quietly accomplishing the good news transformation that history is longing for.  

If your community would like to participate in this third annual Nurturing Communities Gathering and you are not yet on the list, have a representative from your community contact Josh McCallister. joshwmccallister@gmail.com

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