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What’s next? > Monasticism 2.0 > Geographical proximity

July 19, 2011





This article continues to inspire more thoughts and if acted on will lead many to start sustainable “communities of prayerful love” (Dallas Willard) in their neighborhoods. A couple days ago though I noticed some heavy cross pollination going on between this article and the 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. Here’s the overlap and a few reflections.

Mike’s points 2 & 3:



And Mark # 9 o the 12 Marks: “Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life”

These ideas account for a large portion of our overall strategy for transformation in our neighborhood of west Norwood. Our family has done this and we have watched as dozens of other families do the same thing. Our “modest house” actually is only modest because of the number of people that live in it. It has a modesty “per capita” so to speak. If it were just our family of 5 living here it would not seem very modest. We have 5000+ square feet with 11 bedrooms and 5 full bathrooms and a large 700+ square foot deck off the back, 3 floors and an unfinished basement. So that seems like a lot of space – and it is – but when you toss our family of 5 in there on the third floor (along with our 2 dogs and various reptiles) and then add 5-7 singles into the mix the house fills up nicely and actually feels cozy at times.

And it is in an older part of town as well. Most of the houses in our neighborhood are going for under 100k and we have friends who have gotten houses for around 30k and fixed them up. Most of the houses around us are (or were) in fact “fixer uppers.” We spent a little more than most but again when you split the monthly costs out per capita its still not much and we intend to have it paid off within 9 years (we bought it about 6 years ago and did a 15 year fixed mortgage).

One of the best features of having a house that is a little (or a lot!) too big for your family is the opportunity for hospitality – spontaneous and planned, short term and long term – and even more importantly to have people live with you who share your commitments to “Christ and cause” via rhythms of hospitality and mission, prayer and meals.  This is a way (to borrow Mike’s phrase) “to join with your co-laborers and put down roots.” And this can be the subject of another post but buying a home in an older neighborhood is one way to really put those roots down deep. If you’re looking to work in an abandoned place then buying a home (when you can afford it) is one of the clearest statements you  can make. You are saying with your money and your presence “We are here!” It tethers you to a place and a people. Buying modest homes in abandoned neighborhoods and living there for decades is the new vow of stability.

So all this – combined with “geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life” – and you have the bulk of an incarnational strategy to embody the kingdom. We have not only enjoyed living with an extended family in our home but having several people move into the neighborhood all around us and do the same – buy a house and invite others to live with or near them. Our street and the streets around us are filled with people we know and love who have intentionally relocated to this neighborhood to be a serving presence here.

The area we have not yet gotten our arms fully around is having that shared ‘rule of life.’ There have been seasons of a deeper intentionality and shared rhythms but on the whole we have not had that…. perhaps that is a part of what is next as well…

+++ Lord, thank you for my friends and neighbors who love you… for all those who intentionally moved to this place to deepen their walk with you and bless our neighbors. Please lead us to life giving “rhythms, rituals and a rule” that will sustain us in this place for the long haul. Amen. +++

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 12:59 pm

    *sigh*…good memories of the Brownhouse and Convent…I pray more and more people be filled with the same.

  2. July 19, 2011 1:36 pm

    1st – you know my affection for the Brownhouse, it’s inhabitants and how I love to say you are my friends in Norwood. As well, I’ve been able to expose others in my sphere of influence to your community and watch the Kingdom virus continue to fester within them (see Rebecca Gant). The Brownhouse is a model of Kingdom values but not without it’s hard work and struggles, as anything good is. God led you to a unique scenario, my friend, because he could trust you with it. And now that you can tell more of that story for others . . . it’s really rich.

    2nd – love what you said on buying an abandoned home in terms of stating that you are present for the long haul, let alone the life and theme of Resurrection it brings to a neighborhood. What that looks like for us in the ‘burbs’ is one of the families from our community sold their larger home in order to buy a ‘short sale’ home in our neighborhood, as they were also looking at foreclosures. These are the suburban examples of the urban abandoned home. 1) they live more simply, saying no to more consumption which creates more margin for generosity to justice needs 2) it communicates to the neighborhood that they will plant good where there might have been vacancy and delapidation. Personally, I’d like to see a movement of this in suburban America, there is opportunity for the Church to speak Resurrection instead of launching another capital campaign.

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