Education, Event, People

Get outside with *culture is not optional!

As spring emerges here in Three Rivers, we are very excited to announce a few opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy each other’s company while we work the land together.

Coming up in May, join us any or all of three Saturdays to help get the community garden at the Huss Project rolling for the season.  Produce from the garden goes to local families in need directly and through partner agencies.  We also sell our veggies at the Three Rivers Farmers Market to help raise money to sustain the garden, and we’re thrilled that the farmers market will be participating in Double Up Food Bucks this coming season!  Join us to help kick things off for 2015:

  • May 2: Potato planting (2-5 p.m.)
  • May 9: Garden clean-up (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
  • May 16: Garden planting (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

Whether or not you can make it one of these dates, we would love to have your help on an ongoing basis throughout the growing season as we water and tend our plants, and harvest good food for our community.  Please get in touch about helping out through our online citizen interest form.

In case you’re looking for a weekend opportunity, *cino is also partnering to host a weekend gardening retreat just west of Three Rivers at GilChrist Retreat Center.  Part of the Contemplative Ecology series, the weekend will feature both time to work together and time to rest apart.  Participants can enjoy free camping or discounted stays in GilChrist cabins in exchange for doing some work on the center’s 67 acres.  Other features of the weekend will include a shared meal, campfires and silent and guided meditation times.  It’s sure to be a wonderful, restful, reinvigorating weekend and we’d love to have you join us!  There are more details here and on the Facebook page for the event.

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Education, Organization, People

A good listener

This past weekend, Rob and I had the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends at the biennial Festival of Faith & Music at Calvin College.  Among them was our friend David Dark (above), whose book The Sacredness of Questioning Everything has been an anchoring influence for us with its prophetic reminders to just chill out and listen: to our doubts, to our neighbors, to our voices in the wilderness.  We returned to Three Rivers for some Sabbath rest and then, on Monday, we gathered for our weekly *cino staff meeting.  Thanks to another friend, Emily Ulmer, we begin each meeting with a centering reflection — usually a quote or a poem.  For this week’s centering, Rob shared a Merold Westphal quote that David used in his book and that previously appeared as a daily asterisk quote:

If I am a good listener, I don’t interrupt the other or plan my own next speech while pretending to be listening. I try to hear what is said, but I listen just as hard for what is not said and for what is said between the lines. I am not in a hurry, for there is no pre-appointed destination for the conversation. There is no need to get there, for we are already here; and in this present I am able to be fully present to the one who speaks. The speaker is not an object to be categorized or manipulated, but a subject whose life situation is enough like my own that I can understand it in spite of the differences between us. If I am a good listener, what we have in common will be more important than what we have in conflict.

Reminds me of something I heard this past weekend, from Chelsea McInturff of the organization Level Ground, which creates safe space for dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality across various divides.  Talking about getting someone who’s gay and someone who’s vehemently anti-gay in the room together, she said that their goal is not to change what people think, but how they interact with one another.  That’s something I’m going to think about for a long time — and hopefully practice, with *cino and otherwise.

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Education, People, Publishing

A letter from a daily asterisk reader

Note: We recently received this message from Seth Regan, a friend and former *cino intern, and were so touched by the depth of his compassion and thoughtfulness that we wanted to share it with you all.  The John Dear selection appeared as a recent daily asterisk, which is a quote the *cino community sends out via e-mail each weekday.

Yesterday (Sunday) around 4:45 pm, there was a shooting — two separate shootings, in fact — outside my house, targeted at my next door neighbors. They moved in two weeks ago. No one was hurt. The children upstairs thought it was fireworks. The boy who was targeted while sitting in his car was not hurt, though his car is… I saw it happen from my upstairs window.

So today I shakily brought over a box of cookies, baked by my girlfriend especially for them, and knocked on their door. I met a young girl, probably in her late teens. Her name is Hope. There was a young boy, too — Josiah. I introduced myself. We talked. It was pleasant and neighborly.

And then, after walking into my home feeling slightly more empowered, but still very violated and traumatized (and I wasn’t even the target!), I saw this:

God as nonviolent

Imagine God as nonviolent, and worship takes on the fragrance of peace. We enter a deep mystery and bow our heads in awe and wonder and finally, ever so gradually, in imitation of the God of love, evolve into people of nonviolence and peace. The culture of war discounts all this. Its grumbling takes a form something like this: “Such talk is tantamount to heresy. Let go of the vengeful image of God, and what becomes of boundaries? What becomes of order? Worse, such talk amounts to flagrant defiance, stubborn nonconformity, perhaps an act of resistance punishable by law!” The culture of war always tries to instruct us on the nature of God, the definition of sin and morality, the way to be Christian, even human. It knows only “sacred” violence and a god of thunderbolts and fury. And mushroom clouds. Thus the task at hand: to envision the God of peace. For our souls and for the world. The more we envision and grasp the image of the God of peace, the more we’ll fathom Jesus’ teachings, comprehend how to be human, become a peacemaking church of all-inclusive love, and come upon a way or two to help disarm a world armed to the teeth.

John Dear
Put Down Your Sword

Thank you for your work and steadfast commitment to peace. I’m trying to do the same.

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*cino Work, People, Publishing

daily asterisk inspires Epiphany series

One of our catapult contributors, Tamara Hill Murphy, has conducted a wonderful experiment for the season of Epiphany.  Having collected a whole mess of *cino’s daily asterisk quotes over the years, she selected some quotes to use as prompts for guest writers on the theme of where we see the Light in our respective neighborhoods around the world.  Check out the series, called Walking Epiphany, on Tamara’s blog This Sacramental Life.

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Event, Organization

*cino joins Giving Tuesday at the Riviera Theatre

Thanksgiving Day, Buy Nothing Day, Cyber Monday … we’re approaching a feast of “days” this coming weekend!  Giving Tuesday is the newest one of them, designed as a way to encourage generosity for causes that serve the common good.

This year, the Riviera Theatre in downtown Three Rivers will be hosting a huge event on December 2 featuring local organizations, including *culture is not optional.  The night will be chock full of live music, food, drink specials and opportunities to contribute dollars, as well as canned goods, toys and winter clothing.  Our very own David will be bar tending for tips that will go to *cino, plus we’ll have an information table staffed by Rob and Liesje AND you can look for Jay in the bar wearing his Huss Project t-shirt and enjoying a drink for his birthday!

So come on out 6:00-8:00 p.m. to join us in celebrating good work in our community.  And if you can’t stop by in person, you can certainly give online.  Thank you for your support!

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*cino Work, Organization, People

Change afoot: Report from the *cino staff retreat

Last fall, the seven members of the *cino volunteer staff and intentional community went on retreat together at St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers.  Though the monastery is just a 10-minute drive from home, the act of heading out into the woods together for an overnight gave us enough distance to gain some much-needed perspective on our shared work.

Last weekend, that same group of seven gathered again at St. Benedict’s guest house.  When we initially scheduled our annual retreat for this fall, we perhaps were not aware of all of the changes we’d be facing as a group and how much we’d really need this time of sharing and discernment on retreat.  One of us will be moving away at the end of the year.  Several others have had significant job changes — all for the better, but demanding more time and energy.  Another is considering a local move.  Overall, we find ourselves with a much different capacity to do everything we did in the past, while we still remain committed to our common work.

Thanks to skilled facilitation, good food and plenty of play time, we were able to begin and continue important conversations about where we are, and where we’re headed in 2015.  The Rectory, our community house, will be changing significantly, and we supported each other in seeing this shift not as a problem, but as a possibility.  We also honestly acknowledged which of our activities and community connections are life-giving to each of us and which are draining, which is important to acknowledge as we head into a year that we hope will be characterized by joy, gentle change, relatedness, clarity of vision and more-with-less.

We started plugging in some things on the *cino calendar for 2015, but I think we’d all agree that we left on Sunday afternoon with more questions than answers.  And that’s not a bad thing as we head into a season of the year characterized by rest, reflection and waiting.  As we continue to meet for weekly staff meetings and book discussions (we’ve been going through Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging), we plan to keep the questions in front of us, discerning our next steps with trust and openness.  We appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we seek to navigate the coming months as a loving community, for the sake of our greater community.

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Organization, Publishing

Reimagining catapult 2014!

Each August for the past few years, our annual publishing break has given us a bit of breathing room to begin dreaming about how to reimagine catapult magazine. For 12 years now, we’ve relied on one relatively consistent format while the world of technology has rapidly changed around us. We’ve known that a change is needed in order to serve our readers well and encourage sustainability for our very small volunteer staff, but one month has never been enough space to deeply consider what this change might look like, much less how to build a new and improved web site around it.

For that reason, we’re going to take some time this fall to listen to ourselves and to our readers as we figure out how to move forward. All of the statistical metrics in the world are no substitution for your thoughtful, human response. If you value catapult, please take a few minutes to fill out our short survey by September 22. We are looking for your feedback about what you appreciate and where you see room for improvement, as well as your inclination to contribute to this collaborative project moving forward.

We will keep you posted on our progress, and in the meantime, please enjoy the daily asterisk, which is a thought-provoking quote that comes out each weekday. Sign up here if you’d like to receive it in your e-mail inbox, or follow *culture is not optional on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

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*cino Work, People, Three Rivers

Summer of simple abundance

*culture is not optional is a wild and wooly organization with tendrils of work reaching near and far from our base in Three Rivers, Michigan.  Summer tends to be a time that we focus on our local community development work through the Huss Project, but learning and serving with visitors and temporary transplants to Three Rivers continues to be a big part of what we do.

For the past five summers, much of our energy has gone into our summer internship program.  Through various connections and for widely varying reasons, college students and recent graduates find their way to Three Rivers to become part of our intentional community for ten weeks and to come alongside our year-round volunteer staff in the work of growing friendship and imagination through art, food and play.  This year, we were grateful to welcome Nate, Alexandra, Seth and Kate, each of whom brought so many gifts to our collective learning, living and work.  They all returned to their studies this fall in four different corners of the country, though we wish we could have kept them all here forever!

As part of the internship program, but also for the sake of ongoing learning with our resident volunteer staff, we set aside time each week to read (or watch) and reflect around one of *cino’s core values.  Affectionately dubbed Garden of your Mind, these sessions engaged us all in the background, application and critique of how well we live out these values together.  We began with “compassionate listening,” and then made our way through all of the others, including:

As a community, we also welcomed a service group from Palmerson, Ontario into our exploration of what faithful presence looks like in this time and place.  With an abundance of youthful energy, they helped give us a huge boost as we worked to make the Huss Project ready for the annual Huss Future Festival.  Alongside their physical labor, they also engaged in the work of figuring out what it looks like to serve a community well as a person of faith, bringing their insights back to their own rural community.

The interns and the Palmerston group were not our only visiting volunteers this summer.  Several friends, including *cino spring break alumni, joined us to help coordinate the massive community effort that is Huss Future Festival.  Together we cleaned, painted signs, sorted backpacks, priced rummage, (wo)manned various stations and danced our faces off to celebrate five years since *cino’s purchase of the old Huss School here in Three Rivers.

Looking back at this summer, I can point to moments that embodied each of *cino’s core values in a unique way, in large part because of the many creative, compassionate people we are privileged to serve alongside.  Whether nearby neighbors or visitors from afar, I hope we can continue to extend hospitality to one another as we play, eat, work, learn and grow together!

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Education, Organization, People, Three Rivers

The value of abundant simplicity

With Lehman’s catalogs on the center of the table (“simple products for a simpler life”), we embarked on this week’s core values conversation around “abundant simplicity.”  Our first exercise was to picture and do a bit of writing about someone we know whom we admire as living “the good life.”  After sharing about some of the people we chose and why, we entered the next level of questioning: how does that vision of life compare with the vision we were raised with?  All of this was to help us remember that our vision of the good life — what kind of home, shared with whom, what kind of food, how we spend our time and money, and so on — comes from somewhere.  It’s culturally formed (see the Ched Meyers’ article we read in preparation).  And a desire for “simplicity” can easily become as materialistic and stressful as a life of unfettered consumerism (see one of the articles we read for today, “Beware of toilet envy”).  Simplicity is about stuff in some ways, but it’s more about the purity of our hearts and the values that anchor all of our choices.  Meister Eckhart provided a good reminder of this, as we read the following quote that appeared in a back issue of Geez Magazine:

Asceticism is of no great importance. There is a better way to treat ones passions than pile on oneself ascetic practices which so often reveal a great ego and create more, instead of less, self-consciousness. If you wish to discipline the flesh and make it a thousand times more subject, then place on it the bridle of love.

*cino’s core values expression of abundant simplicity is this: “The good life is characterized by sharing, resourcefulness and eating together often.” Basically: we need each other, we are better together and we reject the myth of scarcity that is so often used to manipulate us into acting out of fear for the sake of our own self-preservation.  There is much abundance in living simply in order to live generously, in finding creative ways to connect and thrive that don’t involve excessive amounts of money.

But the good life, we we’ve come to experience it, is about more than just abundant simplicity; it’s about all of the core values we’ve been studying together — experiential learning, compassionate listening, radical hospitality — and about being part of a community of people who wrestle with these ideas and practices together, in the midst of brokenness, around a kitchen table.

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*cino Work, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Welcome 2014 *cino summer interns!

They started rolling in in May.  First, Seth arrived to begin working at a local farm and help get the community garden started.  Then, Alexandra moved in and promptly began pitching in on our Farmers Market table.  Nate was the next to arrive and it wasn’t long before we were briefing him on Community Fun Night and handing him a paint scraper.  And finally, after driving 30 hours straight, Kate joined us, willingly diving in to the many tasks that need to happen here at the Huss Project before special events.

This summer, we welcome four interns who have agreed to add their talents, stories, creativity, humor and heavy lifting power to the *cino team for a season.  Interns volunteer 20+ hours per week to help out with whatever tasks need to be done.  This work includes plenty of physical labor — mowing, weeding, cleaning, deconstructing — but it also includes responsibilities coordinated specifically around each intern’s skills and interests.  Seth, a student at Grand Valley, will be serving as our agriculture intern, overseeing the community garden and the Farmers Market.  Alexandra comes to us from Spring Arbor and will put her editing and design skills to work on our communications and promotions team.  Kate, who attends College of the Atlantic, and Nate, who just graduated from Calvin College, will be helping out with our special events, including summer lunches, Community Fun Nights and Huss Future Festival.

Each summer group has a unique dynamic, and we are already thoroughly enjoying this particular group’s playfulness, curiosity and easy-going willingness to pitch in and help.  We look forward to continuing to get to know each other as we work side by side in partnership with our neighbors toward the flourishing of Three Rivers and the self-fulfillment of serving and learning in community.

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