*cino Work, Education, Event, People, Three Rivers

*cino hosts Weekly Witness for Peace in October and November

“Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”

– John Lewis, Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of…justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”

– Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Times of powerful division and anxiety call for powerful expressions of peace and compassionate action. Throughout human history, those committed to the hard work of building peace in community have found hope and strength in simply standing together as one. As a humble expression of peace, each Tuesday in October and the first Tuesday in November, the Huss Project will host a physically-distanced half hour of silence outdoors from 5:00-5:30 p.m.

Participants are welcome to take whatever posture of prayer, meditation, or reverence is most comfortable for them; there is no specific religious affiliation. For those who would like to keep their bodies moving in silence, there will be a couple of short walking paths around the Huss Project property.


  • Please park in the main parking lot and visit the blue tent by the main entrance to Huss to check in. Kindly bring a mask to wear at check-in, but feel free to remove masks when physically distanced out on the property during the silence.
  • Silence will be observed outdoors no matter the weather, so please come prepared for the day’s forecast.
  • If you’d like to sit, please bring your own chair or ground covering.
  • A bell will sound to mark the beginning and end of the half hour. If you can only attend a portion of the time, please come!

If your organization would like to be a community partner for this event, please get in touch before September 28. All are welcome to participate in this series of events, in hope and solidarity for a community of flourishing for all.

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*cino Work, Hospitality, Leadership, People

Growing our community safely in a pandemic

In mid-March, as Michigan pulled together and hunkered down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, our *cino crew was watching and waiting to see how our plans to welcome new people into our community this spring might change. We had a couple from Vermont planning to move into our new caretaker’s house, and we anticipated hiring seven new AmeriCorps partners—three year-long VISTAs and four summer associates—with several of these folks moving into our community house. With everything changing so fast and a growing awareness that the situation would continue for many months, we had no idea what to expect.

We continued our recruiting and hiring processes and eventually, AmeriCorps confirmed our May 11 start date for our new VISTAs. We were super excited about the three folks who agreed to join us, but how could we form a new household safely? And what would we do about the summer folks starting June 1?

So we started gathering the best, most reliable information we could and came up with a plan that we feel very good about. Because we’re a very visible group of people and because we want to maintain a sense of transparency and accountability with our broader Three Rivers community, we want to lay out some of the details of our plan.

  • As of March 16, all members of *cino’s four community households began practicing self-isolation, with distancing and other safety practices for any essential trips outside the house.
  • Thanks to adaptations allowed by AmeriCorps, our *cino staff began working remotely and our weekly community meetings shifted to video. We pivoted our work to support the acute needs of our local community with resources like emergency assistance information and free vegetable seeds.
  • When Dan and Margaret traveled from Vermont and moved into the Huss Caretaker’s House in mid-April, we welcomed them from a distance with a housewarming gift and video gatherings, while they spent their first two weeks here in self-isolation.
  • Our May 8 going-away party for two of our community house residents was a multi-faceted, creatively-distanced affair, with ways to participate by mail, text, e-mail, drive/walk/bike-by, and video. (We heard from several folks that it was the best going-away party they’d ever “attended,” so those of us who are trying to figure out how to do grad parties, showers, and so on this spring and summer: it is possible!).
  • New AmeriCorps VISTAs moving into the community house on May 9 self-isolated for two weeks prior to moving into the house.
  • As of May 9, the *cino community house at 208 N. Main Street started a “reset,” with the new group of residents self-isolating together for two weeks to establish a new primary household. During this two weeks, we’re conducting an orientation program through video and outdoor, physically-distanced points of connection.
  • For the foreseeable future, any new residents of the community house will self-isolate for two weeks before joining the household.
  • Our summer work is shifting almost entirely to fresh food production and distribution, so labor will be outdoors as much as possible with collectively designed safety practices based on the relationships among the individuals working together.
  • We’re working on a visual model that will help us all understand how we relate to one another practically and emotionally to support one another’s physical health, as well as the health of our relationships.

So why are we sharing all of this? Well, one of the challenges of this time is managing our feelings of anxiety, fear, and judgment, no matter our opinion of the pandemic response. We see a group of people gathered outside a house, clearly not residents of the same household: are they blowing off the rules? We see someone wearing a mask driving alone in their car: are they just trying shame me for not wearing a mask on my walk? In a time of such remarkable instability and uncertainty, judgment is a natural impulse, but we can practice giving the benefit of the doubt, asking genuine questions, and offering transparency.

We want our neighbors to know without a doubt: our *cino community is taking this thing seriously in the interest of supporting the health of our vulnerable family members, the essential workers with whom we come into contact, our partners at the Huss Project, our local healthcare workers—all our neighbors! When you see us out and about in our neighborhoods, working at the farm, staffing our new Saturday market at the Huss Project, we want you to know we’re taking good care for you, for ourselves, and for all of us.

Even though we’re tired of it already…

Even though the degree of risk is low…

Even though we’d love to hug our friend who’s moving across the country after two years here…

Even though we’d much rather get back to normal and throw a big party…

We will continue to practice intentional safety measures as long as we need to for the sake of public health and the common good.

If anyone ever wonders where we stand and what we’re doing to be safe together, please don’t hesitate to ask. This is going to be a long haul, friends, and we’ll get through it best with shared information, grace, transparency, and mutual respect.

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*cino Work, Education, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Three opportunities to join our work and community!

The past year has been a time of incredible growth for our organization, and we are thrilled to be recruiting folks to join us in our work here in Three Rivers, with three different levels of commitment. Whether for ten weeks this coming summer or for an open-ended period of time, folks will join the work of a friendly, passionate community of people collaborating for flourishing in our small, beloved, rural city. Read on for a quick snapshot of each type of position, and please help us spread the word!


Ten weeks: AmeriCorps Summer Associate (4 positions)

• Application deadline: May 1, 2020

• Dates of service: June 1 – August 9, 2020

• Summary of work: Educational programming and physical labor in support of Huss Future Fest (July 25), the Imaginarium, and Huss Project Farm

• Weekly commitment: 36 hours

• Compensation: Living allowance of ~$2,350, plus an educational award of $1,311

• Further details

• Apply here!


One year: AmeriCorps VISTA (3 positions)

• Application deadline: April 1, 2020

• Dates of service: May 11, 2020 – May 10, 2021

• Summary of work: Building organizational capacity through research, program development/evaluation, resource-building, and communications

• Weekly commitment: 40 hours

• Compensation: Living allowance of just over $12,000, plus educational award, health insurance, and optional reduced-cost housing ($250/mo.)

• Further details

• Apply here!


One year and beyond: Huss Resident Caretaker

• Application deadline: March 15, 2020

• Dates of service: Move in by May 1, 2020

• Summary of work: Building and seasonal outdoor maintenance at *cino properties, plus hospitality and community-building with Huss neighbors

• Weekly commitment: 15 hours (with optional paid additions)

• Compensation: Housing and utilities

• Further details

• Apply here!

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Event, Leadership, People, Three Rivers

Fed up, fired up: We have work to do

Last year, *cino co-founder Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma was one of the featured speakers at the annual MLK event hosted by the Three Rivers Area Faith Community called Solidarity in Diversity: Celebrating the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is the text from her speech:

In the 1940s, Rosanell Eaton traveled by mule wagon to the Franklin County courthouse to register to vote. Before she could get her registration paperwork, three white men made her stand with her back against the wall and recite the preamble to the constitution. Rosanell was up to the challenge, reciting the preamble perfectly—how many of us can do that?—and she became one of the first black voters in North Carolina. This type of—shall we say—“screening” was not uncommon at that time, as a way of discouraging black voters from going to the polls. We’ve come so far since those days, haven’t we?

Well, fast-forward 70 years to 2013, when Rosanell—at 92 years old—became one of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina. Turns out lawmakers were up to their same old shenanigans, coming up with new rules that were primarily discouraging young people, older people, and people of color of all ages from going to the polls (as in, people who tend to vote for the “other” party). “We have been this way before,” said Rosanell at a rally for voting rights, “but now we have been turned back, and it’s a shame and a disgrace, and absolutely disgusting.” But she would not be discouraged this time either. At 92 years of age, she led the crowd in a chant: get FED UP, and FIRED UP—FED UP, FIRED UP.

It’s a good thing this kind of stuff only happens down south anymore, right?

Well, let’s look at Three Rivers. We live in a city divided into four distinct neighborhoods, or “wards.” The ward with the most racial diversity has half the median income and half the median home value compared to the ward that is the most white.[1] That’s a statistical fact. Another statistical fact: In the 2016-2017 school year, the high school dropout rate for white students in Three Rivers was less than 5%, but for Hispanic students it was 11% and for African American students, it was nearly 17%—so 5% for white students, more than double for Hispanic students, and more than triple for African American students.[2] Why is this? Each situation is unique of course, but here’s one story I heard just the other day from a parent: a child finally dropped out of our local school system last spring after being bullied relentlessly for the color of his brown skin—called the N-word, told that Mexicans belong on the floor cleaning up after the other kids. He tried to speak up for himself, but his voice fell on deaf ears. Some of us in this room are shocked that this is happening in our local schools, and others of us are not surprised. I want to speak specifically to those who feel shocked for a minute.

Those of us who feel surprised that children are dropping out of our schools because of racial bullying: we have work to do. We took a step in the right direction by showing up here on this frigid evening to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But if we are surprised that racism still exists in very real ways our city, in our schools, in our businesses, in our well-intentioned hearts—Rosanell might say if we are not FED UP—then we are not paying attention. And Dr. King has some hard words for us. His “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” is quite famous, but how many of us have actually read it? It’s a loving-yet-direct challenge, written to people who look like me—people who say we sympathize with the cause of oppressed people, but don’t take meaningful action. King writes,

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Dear fellow white people: we have work to do. Racism is not just about specific, individual acts of meanness, but about the ways our systems—our schools, our government policies, our immigration system, our economic opportunities—work better for people of a certain racial identity than for others. Racism is not just about the tasteless immigrant joke someone told in the break room last week or a white middle schooler calling someone the N-word, but about the everyday, on-the-ground impacts of centuries of strategic abuse of power.

Does that sound overwhelming to you? It probably does, so I’m going to suggest two starting points, especially for my fellow white people. First, we need to learn how to become more comfortable talking about race, including and especially our own whiteness. Can you talk for a full minute about your experience of being white? Time yourself. Give it a try. And here’s why this is important. Robin DiAngelo is a white woman who has been conducting anti-racism trainings for years. She published a book that I would highly recommend, called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She also wrote an article for The Guardian called “White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It’s not.” And here’s what she had to say about what happens when white people are racially unaware:

If I cannot tell you what it means to be white, I cannot understand what it means not to be white. I will be unable to bear witness to, much less affirm, an alternate racial experience. I will lack the critical thinking and skills to navigate racial tensions in constructive ways. This creates a culture in which white people assume that niceness is the answer to racial inequality and people of color are required to maintain white comfort in order to survive.

Let me be clear: It’s not “racist” to acknowledge that I am white and that I receive certain unearned privileges by being white. In fact, white people acknowledging our racial privilege is the first step to dismantling racism. Being “colorblind” is not a solution to racism. It’s a convenient form of avoidance that excuses us from having uncomfortable conversations and allows the system of racism to live on and do harm. If we respond to a conversation about race by saying we “don’t see color” or we “don’t want to get too political” or we “have black friends” so we can’t possibly be racist: we have work to do. If this describes you and you feel defensive or stumped about what that “work” is, let’s talk. I’m committed to be a conversation partner for my fellow white people because I truly believe a better understanding of our own racial identity is essential for moving beyond mere diversity toward a more truly equitable society on all levels—including right here in our own beloved community. Diversity is merely the presence of a variety of people around the table; equity is making sure everyone around that table has access to the same menu of options. And “niceness” is not going to fix the systemic educational and economic inequality in our Three Rivers community.

Now, with regard to educating ourselves about race and racism: lest you think I’m just talking about some kind of personal white enlightenment that doesn’t have any social impact, I want to emphasize that growing in our own knowledge and self-awareness inevitably has ripple effects. I don’t follow many blogs, but I do follow the writings of a white woman in our area who is the adoptive mother of a black son. She recently shared a story about visiting a national park with her multi-cultural family. Noticing the shifting streams of tourists, her son remarked, “First there were a lot of Asians, and now there are just regular people.” He quickly caught and corrected himself: “That’s not what I meant. I meant ‘white people.’” And here’s his mom’s reflection afterwards—she writes:

Not so long ago, this moment could have slipped by me unnoticed.

I might have said, “Don’t say that.”

I might have said, “That’s not nice.”

I might have said, “That’s rude.”

But, it would have been a missed opportunity, and the only lesson I’d have instilled was that noticing our differences was wrong.

Instead, I was able to respond with, “You know how we talk about the belief that white people are ‘normal’ and everyone else is not? And how we can start to think that ourselves because of all of those messages we get? Calling white people ‘regular’ is part of that.”

…[My son] is learning about systemic racism and bias, and how to identify it within himself, because I am learning about systemic racism and bias and how to identify it within MYself. We are incapable of instilling lessons in our children if the lessons don’t yet exist within ourselves. If we truly desire for our children to bring the change we wish to see, we have to first commit to doing the work personally. We can’t afford to keep missing moments.

Which leads to my second suggestion for practical action moving forward, inspired by this mother and the difficult experiences her son faces in his school. In addition to growing our own knowledge, we need to talk to the kids in our lives about race and racism—not just on MLK Day or during Black History Month, but regularly. Talk with them about current events, even when those events are sad and hard and we’re not sure what to say. Read age-appropriate books together that explore stories of racism and stories of those who fight for racial justice.[3]We have to get specific with our kids. Teaching them broadly about “fairness” and “kindness” is not enough. We need to strategize with them specifically on what to do when they witness someone using a racial slur against another person or telling a racist joke. And most importantly: they should see us as adults putting ourselves on the line to stand up for and stand with people who are being bullied or discriminated against. Some of us may not know where to start, but if we educate ourselves about race and start to pay attention, I don’t doubt we’ll find our way.

Friends, the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not done, but he’s no longer here to do it. And Rosanell Eaton died just one month ago at the age of 97, so she’s no longer here either to get us FIRED UP. So you know what that means: it’s just us. That’s the bad news. But the good news is: it’s us! It’s all of us, in this thing together. Look around you—go ahead: look around! We showed up for each other tonight. We showed up to celebrate the progress we’ve made, and to recommit to one another for the work ahead. This is the beloved community in which your pain is my pain, your joy is my joy. As Dr. King famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” That’s not just a nice saying; it’s a call to action.

Our city has the gift of diversity; now we need to continue to work together for equity. What does that look like for us? Arm in arm with you, my family in this fight, I can’t wait to find out.

[1] U.S. Census Data, 2010


[3]Here are some ideas from Embrace Race and Brightly.

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Leadership, People

*cino co-founder honored for servant leadership

On Friday, October 4, Rob stepped up to the microphone in College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, to address a crowd of Goshen students and alumni at the annual homecoming convocation. 15 years earlier, Rob could have been one of these students, filing in and taking a seat for the mandatory chapel service.

Except he probably would not have been there, not because he was playing hooky, but because as a returning older student finishing up his undergrad at Goshen, he was exempt from the chapel requirement. In fact, a Friday morning may well have found Rob staffing World Fare, the non-profit, volunteer-run fair trade store he helped start in Three Rivers, Michigan, where he lived while commuting to Goshen. Or maybe he was putting the finishing touches on the bi-weekly catapult magazine, an online publication he and others had founded in 2001. He may not have been sitting in a chapel seat, belting out the bass line of the morning’s hymn in true Mennonite fashion, but still, he was singing praises in the key most true to his nature: community development.

View the video from the 2019 Goshen College Homecoming Convocation above. Rob’s award and speech take place between minutes 17 and 30, and Minh Kauffman’s talk after Rob’s is wonderful as well. If you’ve never heard the loveliness of Mennonite part singing before, you’ll want to listen to the alma mater chorus starting just after 41:30—beautiful!

In his early 20s, “community development” was not the term that Rob used to describe the theme of his creative, entrepreneurial work, but his work in the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies program at Goshen College was planting that seed in the soil of his intuitive organizational imagination. Even though moving back and forth between the worlds of a full-time college student and a married adult running two non-profit organizations was exhausting at times, the experience proved to sustain a delicate balance. While many of his peers in the PJCS program found themselves overwhelmed by the wounds of the world, Rob had a sense of purpose and meaning in practical work to address those wounds. The fair trade store was bringing the Three Rivers community into relationship with economically disadvantaged communities around the world, in an alternative trade framework that placed the flourishing of the most vulnerable people at the center. Through events and online publishing, *culture is not optional was calling its constellation of people of faith to deeper practice of social, aesthetic, and environmental values in everyday life, through storytelling and art. There was no time to wallow—there was work to be done!

Rob gratefully counts many of his Goshen professors among his inspirational models of integrated heart and mind, celebration and lament, prayer and work. One of those professors, Joe Liechty, has become a good friend over at-least-annual get-togethers for coffee at Goshen’s Electric Brew. Joe’s gifts of listening deeply with humility and working for change out of a spirit of love and longing have been hugely influential for Rob in his work in Three Rivers, and so it was especially honoring to discover that Joe had nominated him to receive Goshen College’s Young Alumni Award.

Which brought him to College Mennonite Church the morning of Friday, October 4. After Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus presented him with the token of his award—a ceramic pitcher handmade by a local potter—Rob stepped up to the lectern. In the previous months, he’d been thinking back on himself as a student, full of despair and hope, and experimenting at the intersection of his sense of calling and the world’s need. What would he have needed to hear from a random speaker in a mandatory chapel service? Recalling his fellow students, whose despair at the state of the world drove many away from their faith tradition, and others who sidestepped the pain to embrace the status quo, he dug into the entwined roots of his Reformed and Mennonite influences to issue a challenge:

We need a robust imagination to realize the vision for the beloved community, loving the stranger and our enemies until we all become neighbors, and then loving our neighbors not just in theory, but in practice. The work is exceedingly difficult, but the vision for flourishing is enduringly beautiful. The world needs each and every one of you to help bring this vision into being, in whatever field you are in and in whatever place you choose to live. We need it now, ‘times being what they are: hard, and getting harder all the time.’ We need doctors, sociologists, and historians who are imagining solutions to high infant mortality rates in communities of color. We need bankers who are imagining pathways to home and business ownership for populations who have been left behind by gaps in generational wealth. We need farmers and eaters who are committed to the land, living out the connection between soil health and healthy communities. We need engineers who imagine new means of energy production as we stare down an uncertain future for our planet. We need journalists who lift up the value of the voices of the voiceless. We need politicians who set policy based on the care of the least of these, neighbors and strangers, reminding us that ‘justice is what love looks like in public.’ And in the end, we all need each other to imagine and live into a vision of neighborliness that is nothing less than kinship, which, as Father Greg Boyle articulates it, is not serving the other, but being one with the other. ‘Jesus was not a man for others, he was one with them.’ That is the beloved community, friends, and I am so thankful for the ways that Goshen College is growing that community through the formation of each of us.

This basic conviction—that we each have a calling to dismantle the causes of suffering and cultivate healing—was nourished in Rob by a great cloud of witnesses, living and dead, named and unnamed, and we can only hope the soil of the next generation is already seeded with the love to continue this good work in every place and in every field.

Goshen’s homecoming was a wonderful opportunity for Rob to reconnect with former professors and fellow students, and to be reminded of the important role of institutions like Goshen that are committed to non-violence as we seek to bring about flourishing for all in this world. Monday morning found him back at work in Three Rivers, completing the next iteration of *culture is not optional’s offering to that effort: a new community space designed to plant the seeds of sustaining friendships and lifesaving imagination through shared stories and experiences. Thank you, Rob, for your fierce, compassionate, creative vision and leadership in our community! May you be sustained in this work into the future with deep companionship, clarity, energy, and hope.

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*cino Work, Building, Fundraising, People

*cino purchases a new community house!

Over the past ten years, we’ve enjoyed our partnership with Trinity Episcopal Church through the use of their rectory for our community house. We’ve hosted 43 interns and resident communities members, dozens of volunteers, and countless dinners at the house. Now, we enter a time of transition, rejoicing with Trinity as they welcome a new pastor who will live in the rectory with his partner who is also a pastor. Together, they will serve three churches in our region, including Trinity, and we hope to count them as our neighbors for many years to come.

While the timing of a major housing transition on top of our Imaginarium work, starting a new AmeriCorps program, and the farm season ramping up has seemed curious, we can’t deny that an amazing opportunity has presented itself. As of April 1, *cino is the owner of a beautiful Victorian-era home on Main Street, just north of downtown Three Rivers!

As you can see from the photo, this five-bedroom house needs a lot of work, but it has solid infrastructure, abundant space, and lovingly preserved historic features. We are honored to become caretakers of such an iconic home in our community.

Rob has been coordinating a number of generous volunteers over the past few weeks to get the space ready for our current rectory residents and our AmeriCorps partners who will begin in May. We’re making excellent progress, but we could use your help. This transition represents a significant unexpected expense for *cino at a time when almost all of our resources are dedicated to the big Imaginarium project. Even so, we’re trying to do things right and make choices that will last for a long time. Would you be willing to pitch in with a donation toward supplies? To give you some idea of the scope of needs for this project and what your donation would provide:

  • $20: case of tile (40 needed)
  • $30: grab bar for accessible bathroom (6 needed)
  • $50: gallon of paint (30 needed)
  • $100: smoke/carbon monoxide detector (8 needed)
  • $150: toilet (3 needed)
  • $500: remove termite-infested trees (2 needed)
  • $5,400: emergency roof & soffit work (only 1 section needed so far—thankfully!)

Beyond these immediate needs, we’ll be looking toward further interior improvements to the second floor within the year, as well as restoring and painting the exterior—no small task! With your help, we look forward to fostering deep, long-lasting community in this new space and we hope we can give you a tour in person before too long. Thank you for your partnership, in whatever form it takes!

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Now accepting apps for year-long AmeriCorps VISTA positions!

We have some great news! Starting in May, we’ll have three full-time AmeriCorps VISTA positions for people who will help us take our work to the next level in the areas of food systems, education, and economic development through the Huss Project, World Fare, and other partners in Three Rivers.

Experience with activities like social research, community development, event planning, education, program development, volunteer coordination, permaculture design, food systems, non-profits … these are the types of things we’re looking for in people who will thrive collaborating at a high level with a grassroots org in a funky, small, Midwest city. We’re looking for people with solid enough experience to function as peer collaborators in creative design toward significant community outcomes, in a spirit of curiosity, joy, and accountability. Here are four words that are floating around for us at the moment as we search:

  • Compassion
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Detail-orientation

Visit our listing on the AmeriCorps site to submit your application. Applications are open until April 15, but we’re looking to fill these positions as soon as possible to allow our VISTAs to plan for the mid-May start date. The compensation package includes:

  • A living allowance (just over $12,000/year)
  • An educational award (or end-of-service stipend)
  • Health insurance
  • Reduced-cost housing

Thank you for your help in spreading the word and please let us know if you have any questions! We’re really looking forward to this next phase of our community’s work in Three Rivers.

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*cino Work, Leadership, Organization

2017 *cino community retreat coming up this weekend

Each fall for the past several years, the *cino core community members have gathered at a cozy house outside of town to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. In the past, we’ve invited in a friendly facilitator to help us explore our personality types and how they work together, and engage good questions about the interaction between our work and our selves.

This year, we’re keeping it simple with a self-guided retreat. As we’ve noted on the *cino web site and Topology Magazine, 2018 is going to be a year of slowing down, for Rob and Kirstin specifically, but that will have ripple effects for our entire group and the organization’s work as a whole. We’ll be discerning what to maintain in 2018 and what to let lie fallow, including what kind of community we need to build for the year to sustain the things we are committed to with a sense of healthy balance and wholeness.

Surrounding the discussion times will be plentiful amounts of hanging out, reading, eating, walking, and playing together. We always look forward to this time of renewal for our work and our relationships, and greatly value your prayers for discernment, wisdom, and joy as we head into some important conversations this weekend.

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*cino Work, People

A season of rest

Online and print publishing, annual camping conferences, intentional community, speaking engagements, a daily quote, summer festivals, storytelling nights, internship programs, service learning groups, an urban farm, maintaining an old elementary school building … The work of *cino has taken many forms over the past 16 years. In the past several months, it’s become clear that a prominent form for the next little while needs to be: Sabbath rest.

Kirstin and Rob, co-founders of *culture is not optional, will be observing 2018 as a sabbatical year—not a stopping, but a significant slowing down, and the *cino community is in discernment about what would bring joy to maintain through the coming year. Some initiatives will be put on hold for the year, including Topology Magazine, the daily asterisk, the summer internship program, and service-learning groups. Others, like the urban farm at the Huss Project, will get more focused attention.

Throughout the sabbatical year, we will still maintain our community house with space for long- and short-term volunteers. If you’d be interested in spending some time in Three Rivers in the coming year, please get in touch. From all of our faithful friends and supporters, we ask for prayers as we pay attention to the call to make space in our personal and organizational lives.

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*cino Work

Looking back, looking forward

Greetings from Three Rivers, Michigan! Snow is falling here as the day comes to a close and the days get shorter and colder. The *cino community continues to move into winter mode, which means a shift from more social activities toward planning for the coming year, including fundraising and programming.

We know that many of you tend to make charitable contributions at the end of the calendar year, and we would be grateful if you’d remember our work as you do so.

What we’ve done in 2016…

  • In the past year, it’s been a joy to host so many wonderful, curious, thoughtful college students here in Three Rivers as part of our spring break service-learning program, summer internship, and even a self-directed household retreat for a group of students at our community house this past fall. The insights and experiences these students bring to our work here is invaluable, and their presence, even for a short time, is very encouraging to us and to our neighbors. We love hearing stories about the amazing things they’re going on to do in their college communities and the places they land after graduation. To learn more, check out the reflections from four of our summer interns: Tess, Lauren O., Lauren A., Aubrey, and Chelsea.
  • We’ve made some good progress on equipment and infrastructure this year, including our current project to install a large garage door in the former gymnasium at the Huss Project. This space has evolved to be our farm headquarters and a woodshop, creating a need for better access. We also purchased a used tractor that will be a great help with projects that need to be done on the land.
  • We completed our first full year of publishing Topology Magazine. New writers are finding us all the time, and we have appreciated hearing stories from so many corners of the world. Our editorial team, which is spread across three countries and now the ocean (check out Elisabeth’s dispatch from the sailing ship Tres Hombres) has been getting into a good rhythm of working together.
  • We’ve continued to build local relationships and partnerships through neighborhood programming and events. This year, the United Community Assistance Program, an ecumenical support network for low-income people, partnered with us on the Huss Project Farm and provided volunteer and financial support. We also introduced a gallery at Huss Future Fest that featured work from local artists, including budding young photographers from our neighborhood. And we set up new hives and partnered with some local bees for good pollination!

What we’ve learned in 2016…

This fall especially has reinforced for us the importance of building cross-cultural relationships in our community. Since 2009, *cino has been part of Three Rivers Area Faith Community (TRAFC), one of the few places in our community where black and white leaders are intentionally committed to working together across racial boundaries, which has also included gender, denominational, economic, and theological boundaries. We believe it’s critical for us to have places where we can hear the stories of people who are different from us. We’ve also identified a need to re-imagine some of our youth programming to foster deeper relationships, even while we continue to only have a seasonal presence at the Huss Project. We are eager for the day that we can be there year-round!

What we anticipate for 2017…

One of our first commitments for 2017 is to participate in the community march, meal, and service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is organized by TRAFC and has some amazing renewed energy this year. We’ve also created a draft of a plan for the land at the Huss Project and we will be working on implementing some major pieces of that plan, which includes more space for growing food and more easily accessible public play space. Having a plan on paper, even an early draft that will inevitably evolve, has already led to good conversations with our core group about ordering our priorities and coming up with some creative new ways to find the resources we need to continue moving forward. If you don’t have another opportunity to visit, you can see our progress at the annual Huss Future Festival on July 22—save the date!

At a benefit for the Standing Rock Legal Fund this fall, we heard an incredible slam poet who closed his set with a punch: “No hand claps necessary. Do the work.” It has quickly become a refrain for us: “Do the work.” We stand by our commitment to work for the flourishing of our Three Rivers community, and to train others to work for the flourishing of every place they find themselves. Thank you for your support, and for the good work you do in the place where you are.

Wishing you peace and joy,
The *cino community

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