For 21st century Christians living in intentional community, interpersonal relationships are a major component of living faithfully.
For some community members, interpersonal relationships with those outside of the intentional community are of great importance. Adrianne, for example, experienced frustration during her time in intentional community, because she was hoping to forge relationships with the poor, while her community members were more focused on intra-community relations:
“I think, again, because I was hoping for more involvement with the poor that it was not—like, as far as like spiritually fulfilling, not so much. Because for me, that is so important to me and it is something I really feel like god is calling me to do to live my life in such a way that I’m encountering the poor in my daily life, and not just in a “I’m helping them” sort of way, but so I can be shaped by those personal relationships with people who are different from me. I came to terms with it, but I was always disappointed about that.” (Shower-Matlock interview, 2014)
Chris elaborates on the importance of inter-community relations. His church, St. Mary’s of Egypt, off of 31st and Troost in Kansas City, Missouri, encourages congregants to live in close vicinity to each other. Chris elaborates, explaining that this helps form community, and makes your neighbors’ problems your problems:
“[The church wants] everybody to be [living close together], to be a part of community from the inside, and not just outsiders trying to work in. So now when you talk about problems that are going on around the church—they’re my problems. When you talk about shootings, well that shooting was on my street. Some crazy shit is happening, and it’s my neighbors. So that’s his whole deal—the village mentality in which everyone helps each other and takes care of each other and stuff” (Husbands interview, 2014)
Chris continues, explaining that intentional communities should focus on inter-community relations because it’s biblically mandated:
“The bible talks a lot about neighbors, and yes its kind of a broad spectrum term but its also pretty fucking literal. If you can’t love the dude who literally your neighbor, then you have problems. That was one thing that we always do as a church—those are our neighbors, not those poor dudes in Africa. ‘Cus it’s really easy to like the dude that you never see except for really cute photos that you get sent, and you pay 10 dollars a month. “It’s only a dollar a day, it’s like a cup of coffee.” Okay guys, I get that, but, your neighbor is like this little ol’ lady and there’s a hole in her driveway and she wants you to fix it. Like, that’s better.” (Husbands interview, 2014)
For Chris and other 21st century Christian intentional community members, faith lived properly means caring for your neighbors in a very literal sense. Lonnie, a member of Cherith Brook, echoes these sentiments. Cherith Brook offers daily breakfast, showers, and once-weekly dinners to the homeless in their neighborhood. The homeless are referred to as guests, and are treated not as aid recipients, but as neighbors and friends:
“It’s amazing that we—we don’t consider ourselves staff. There is no staff here at all. There are the people that live here, but we even consider ourselves volunteers. We volunteer to do this, to live our lives this way…We know almost everyone that comes through that door on a first name basis. We know their story, and we would not want to grow any larger because we would lose that personal contact, that intimacy with our guests which is what makes this work. It’s not that we always have enough food, it’s not that we have good coffee, it’s not that we have clean clothes and showers. It’s this intimacy that we feel with our guests that makes this really, really work.” (Lonnie interview, 2014)
In these Christian intentional communities bonds forged inter- and intra-communally help community members to fully live out their faith. These efforts at forming relationships with community members often coincide and contribute to intentional community social justice outreach. Read more about these social justice programs here.