7. LifeTogether

The Life Together website describes the organization as “a strategic initiative of The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts” that “is committed to forming leaders, growing communities, and having an impact in the world through direct service, advocacy, and community organizing.” Most of the participants live in an intentional community while interning and participate in one of two key programs: The Micah Project and the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project. 

The Micah Project (an affiliate program of the Episcopal Service Corps) is an eleven-month fellowship and leadership development project that matches emerging young adult leaders (21-35 years of age) with mission-based non-profit organizations and churches throughout the greater Boston area.   

Relational Evangelists (RE) are situated at a partnering church or college chaplaincy, which serves as the base community for the RE’s organizing work. From their site, the RE gathers a leadership team and builds a network base, with which they then work to collectively envision and organize a justice campaign rooted in and responsive to the passions, gifts, and needs of their particular community. The Relational Evangelists (REs) and the young adult teams they recruit to lead with them have received training and regular coaching in community organizing from Marshall Ganz’s Leading Change project.

One Response to 7. LifeTogether

  1. Susan Hill says:

    Shane Claiborne experimented with the gospel in the streets of Philadelphia, Calcutta and Iraq. His Christianity did not come from going secular or becoming liberal but by plunging deeper into the way of Jesus. He admits that what he is doing could be considered by some to be radical, crazy and even insane. The community Claiborne is developing in Philadelphia is “The Simple Way.” He believes it holds the keys to the future.
    As I scanned the list of topics we could choose from to comment on, this one immediately stood out to me, Shane Claiborne’s book Irresistible Revolution, Living as an Ordinary Radical. I believe this title stood out because I have always considered myself a radical. I have been called radical (and other things) on many occasions. Claiborne explains that he too never minded being branded as a radical. He goes on to remind me that the word radical takes its meaning from the Latin word radix, meaning root. He uses the analogy of a radish and its underground roots. Claiborne explains that there is a movement of “ordinary radicals” sweeping the country, people who are choosing to live in radical new ways. I agree with Claiborne that the opportunity to be radical is not held for saints and martyrs only, but also for ordinary folk like you and me. His book is a book for the “ordinary radicals” not for those who think they have a monopoly on radical or those who are satisfied with the way things are but for people who want to get to the root of what it means to love and want to get to the root of why our world is in such a mess.
    Several things resonated with me as I read. One thing that struck me was when he asked if questioning the insanity of the distorted priorities of our consumer culture, global economy and methodology of war seems crazy or insane. These are subjects that I think about often. In my life and ministry, which for me are one and the same, part of what I see as my radicalness is defying Hollywood, defying mainline television and in deeding try to walk in love and follow the example that Jesus gave us. In our conversation with Ian Mobsby, founder of the UK Moot Community, he talked about the social disease we have created of consumerism. Even after we have bought all the right clothes and all the right products, we still do not know who we are. I agree with Mobsby and Claiborne that this is a serious part of the problem we face today. When Claiborne was trying to discover who he is, he thought that he should replace all of his secular possessions with Christian stuff. He explains that he developed a sort of spiritual bulimia. He does not want to discount the tragedy of suffering from bulimia, but he feels he tried to consume large amounts of Christian food in the form of devotions, Christian movies, music and Christian books. He said he was gorged on Christian products “marked by overconsumption but malnourished spiritually, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God.”(39) In my experience stuff does not fill us up. Often I think it only makes the hole deeper especially if we go into debt to get the stuff.
    Another point that hit home for me was when Claiborne explains that there is a truth that he has come to live by due to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, even if their intentions are ever so earnest, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” (326) Last week, while I was in Atlanta, I ran across a church that I would describe as an emergent church. There was a large banner that was hanging on the building (which was an old K-Mart) that said, “Jesus Not Religion.” When I read this, I thought about why is it important to make such a statement. Those who feel betrayed by religious dogma and the old school concept of the man at the front are seeking a spiritual truth based on the radical love of Jesus. As I prepare for ordination, though I have to commit to the tenants of my church, I hope that I am more concerned with people than with the dream of the community, in this case the church.
    I think it is interesting that we live in a time when we have been convinced it is important for everything to be supersized. In light of that I think it is an amazing statement Claiborne makes when he points out that we believe in a God that created the entire universe yet chose to be born in a tiny manger. When I see all the mega churches (around here we call mega churches Six Flags Over Jesus.), I reflect on Claiborne’s point and question the philosophy that the larger we are the more we can do. It makes me wonder if this is yet another illusion of supersized consumerism. Claiborne tells us that research shows us that when churches grow in terms of staff and property, their giving to causes outside of operating expenses decreases dramatically, especially money given to the poor. Claiborne also points out that when things grow fast and large, they also grow homogeneously. If this is true, it makes me sad because it further diminishes our hope of removing the lines drawn in the sand, becoming diverse, and loving each other as Jesus did.
    I believe that even though we are living in serious economic times, all is not bleak. For me this is an opportunity to discover that life is more than stuff. Fortunately, Claiborne and others also believe we are amid a great awakening in the “slumbering body of Christ.” (347) I believe that is very exciting. He goes as far as to say we are the Lazarus generation. When skeptics ask how a little group of radical idealists plan on changing the world, Claiborne reminds us that all we have to do is look closely at history. He sees a new yet ancient way of life where little communities scattered throughout the land spread the love of Jesus in a world that is thirsty and creation is groaning. When I feel overwhelmed by all the suffering and wonder how my little radical notion of living my ministry matters, I take comfort in the comment Mother Teresa made, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love. It is not how much you do but how much love you put into doing it.” (319)

    This book is well written. It is full of humor, interesting facts, and a positive yet realistic perspective of what a group of believers is doing to make a difference in the name of love and Jesus. It is not necessarily a how-to book, with specific steps to follow, but for me a book that offered encouragement and support to continue to minister to the community I have and to walk in love following in the radical steps of Jesus. I believe this book is definitely worth the time it takes to read it.

    Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution living as an Ordinary Radical, Zondervan, Grand Rapids. 2006.

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