Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cooperative Living

Cooperative living is something I think a lot about. It is a generic term I'm using for a few ways we are attempting to live (or thinking about living) less enslaved to the idea of ownership (and entitlement) to material things and things like personal space and privacy, living with the people around us rather than just next to them. Not that any of those things are evil in and of themselves, it's just that we tend to abuse them and get self-centered with them, rather than allowing them to be used to move forward our real goals (glorifying God and serving people). A paraphrase of something by Doris Longacre (I think) from one of the More with Less books -- Simple living is not a goal in itself, but it is a means to free ourselves and our resources to serve those around us in a world sorely in need of help.

So, examples...
Spiritually, emotionally -- Openness to express hurt and need and depravity -- meeting regularly for scripture or prayer journaling. Accountability.

Materially -- finding ways to be a part of other people's lives and let other people into our lives by sharing our stuff, bartering, helping each other with tedious tasks -- we are interested in the idea of co-housing, that we don't require x sq.ft. of space to live in or our own kitchen or our own appliances or car, that there are many ways that we could ditch the idea that independent is best. We find it very easy to be isolated from everyone. Even our friends.
I've been trading homemade food products with some folks -- I make lots of bread, they make other stuff, we trade regularly, it forces us to talk to each other, be interested in each other's lives. We found a place that reaches out to people in financial need in our area. We made bag lunches weekly for them to hand out. I organized a bunch of Swap nights for several families, where we would bring as much stuff as we could find that we didn't use anymore to offer for free for anyone else to take, and we would make bulk meals to share with each other. That led to finding out about several other shared interests and related activities.

Meals -- When we lived in California, there was a family who invited us and a bunch of their kids' friends over each week on Wednesdays for supper. It was very meaningful to us. So we are trying something like that out of our home. So we are inviting a whole bunch of families to come eat and visit on one night a week every week, not expecting everyone to come every week, making a simple supper, and eating with and talking to whoever comes. It's a very sustainable, real, good activity. We can keep doing it for years. It's really at the core of knowing people is inviting them - serving them - eating with them - talking to them, over and over, doing the activities of normal life with them.

Cooperative living is sort of code words for the type of interactions with other people that come out of what we believe is our purpose in life -- worship, fellowship, accountability, caring for people in their needs, helping our neighbor in his daily life, building one another up, humility.
And it goes against the disconnectedness we have felt in traditional churches from applying those ideas to our real lives, or at least seeking out our own means for carrying them out in life apart from church-y activities, and our disconnectedness from people even within the church.

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