*culture is not optional was started by a group of college friends who wanted the community atmosphere they had experienced as students to be sustained after college. At a Pennsylvania campsite in August of 2000, several recently graduated students reunited from various corners of the country and realized a shared sense of alienation, particularly within the institutional Church. Where were the passionate conversations about the practical application of faith in today’s world — conversations that had ignited our passion as students? For Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma and Grant Elgersma, this camping trip attested to the importance of having an environment outside of academic institutions where Christians striving toward lives marked in every way by the love of Christ could share stories of struggle and inspiration and find encouragement.
A conversation around a campfire turned into an online discussion board, which evolved into an online magazine. Desiring a means of sustaining the effort to invite others into the conversation and community, a handful of founding board members formed a non-profit organization.
*culture is not optional exists to model and encourage creative communities, rooted in the love of Christ in Three Rivers and beyond. The name, taken from Calvin Seerveld’s book, Rainbows for the Fallen World, suggests that God created human beings for the joyful, complex, creative work of making something of this world, ultimately toward shalom: flourishing for all of creation. *cino aims to highlight and educate for this work of faithful cultivation in our households and neighborhoods through a variety of means, including community development, publishing, events and intentional community.
Over time, *cino has continued to draw national and international participation while growing deeper roots in the small, rural city of Three Rivers, Michigan. Welcoming the stories and wisdom of people of all ages, *cino has also continued to be a hospitable space particularly for college students and young adults.