*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Publishing, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

2014: Year in review

With hearts full of gratitude, we say goodbye to another year and anticipate 2015 with hope and discernment. Please enjoy this review, written by the members of our core community here in Three Rivers.  Thank you for the many ways you’ve supported *culture is not optional in the past year!  Our work is sustained by generous donations of all kinds and we thankfully receive your gifts of time, money, prayer and encouragement.  Please be in touch about how you’d like to be involved in the coming year, and if you’d like to make a financial contribution, you can do so here.  Peace be with you in the coming year!


COMMUNITY: Volunteer partners come and go, while friendships remain

by Jay Howard

The Rectory, *cino’s community house, was full of good food and laughter in 2014. Jay, Liesje and Deborah endured an exceptionally snowy, cold winter, looking forward to summer when four amazing interns joined the household: Seth, Alexandra, Kate and Nate. They were a wonderful addition to our group, bringing many gifts to the work of a prosperous community garden, exciting and creative Community Fun Nights, a glowing Future Festival and lovely Friday night potlucks. In addition, we hosted visitors from Project Neighborhood, a Calvin College spring break group and a service group from Palmerston, Ontario, who all helped out at the Huss Project and explored the Three Rivers community.  Now as we make our way toward the end of the year, the Rectory will be losing one its inhabitants as Jay is heads to Grand Rapids to pursue new adventures.  Deborah and Liesje, along with Rob, Kirstin, Julie and David, continue to gather regularly as a core group, sharing and discerning the focus of our work for the coming year.

 

SHARING: Telling tales and tasting treats

by David Stewart

Preparing and eating food and telling stories has become central to what *cino does. This year we hosted Underground Supper Clubs on monastery grounds at St. Gregory’s Abbey and in the heart of downtown Three Rivers in one of the beautiful storefronts along Main Street. We told stories about our origins, local haunts, our favorite books, and about our love of food during storytelling events at the Huss Project. We want everyone to experience these sacred acts as fully as we do, something that has become clearer to us over the past year. There are stories in food, and stories in turn are food for the soul. It is our hope in 2015 to make more stories and to find more amazing ways to serve excellent food to the people who love it.

 

PLAY: Growing friendships with our neighbors at Huss

by Liesje Brouwer

Once again in 2014, Huss served as a site for a summer lunch program in partnership with Three Rivers Community Schools. School-aged kids in our neighborhood enjoyed over 700 lunches throughout the summer, gathered around the new picnic tables we built in June. In addition, the Huss Project hosted weekly Community Fun Nights where friends of *cino gathered for baked goods, garden goodies, games and crafts. 40-60 kids, parents and other neighbors attended each week—more than ever before! *cino invested in flag football gear, which was put to good use every week as we worked together with our young neighbors on building respectful relationships. We cranked up our jammin’ play list and ran around with kids and had conversations with adults and basked in the sun and learned a little bit more about one another. On the final fun night, all the kids gathered around and held a string attached to a homemade piñata, then collectively pulled their strings to break it open. The most popular piñata find: bouncy balls! Community Fun Night and summer lunches help us to stay connected to the neighborhood, and our neighbors. A big thank you to everyone who participated!

 

CELEBRATION: Creative connectivity at Huss Future Festival

by Julie Keefer

The fifth annual Huss Future Fest on July 19 was a day full of activities that brought in over 600 visitors, community partners and volunteers — that’s nearly double the attendance in 2013 and it’s encouraging to see the festival grow as a fun, creative and safe place for neighbors to gather.  Future Fest is the pinnacle of our summer for *cino staff, interns and volunteers who put in countless hours full of blood, sweat and, yes, even sometimes tears to clean, plan, paint, fold, mow, imagine, and clean some more. A highlight this year was partnering with TRAFC (Three Rivers Area Faith Community) to host their annual Back-to-School Celebration.  We saw lots of families coming to the festival to join in the fun and get backpacks full of school supplies. In addition, volunteers from the Huss Project’s community garden sold quinoa salad and grilled veggies and brats, while the locally-famous Weenie King added his hotdog stand to our food options.  This year we hosted our second Coin Carnival partnering with local organizations: Three Rivers Public Library, Red Cross, Save the Frogs, River Country Resilience Circle, Congo Cloth Connection/Florence Church, St. Joseph County Department of Human Services, Pregnancy Helpline, St. Joseph County ISD/Great Start, Animal Rescue Fund and Flowerfield Enterprises.  Many local farmers also donated generous amounts of produce for our mini farmers market: Triple Ripple Community Garden, White Yarrow Farm, Bair Lane Farm, Corey Lake Orchard and Butternut Sustainable Farm.  Dozens of volunteers also helped coordinate many activities for kids, a rummage sale, art vendors, workshops, art installations, a bake sale and live music.  It was a joy to witness such incredible collaboration, which is a primary value we hope to cultivate at the Huss property.  At the end of the festival, our *cino community, friends and festival attendees took the opportunity to celebrate in gratitude for the Huss Project’s fifth anniversary with a five-song dance party!

 

FLAVOR: Sharing fresh, local food with our community

by Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Working alongside our neighbors, we continued to produce food at the Huss Project this year in our wild and wooly community garden. In June, we hosted a compost tea workshop where several of us learned how to create organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer for our gardens. Even as we struggled with a streak of vandalism, we distributed the garden produce to individuals and families in need through several agencies in our county. Beyond just our own garden, *cino helped publish a local food and recycling guide for our region.  We also partnered with several local farms this summer to sell their produce alongside our own at the Three Rivers Farmers Market. After the market closed for the season, we gathered additional farm partners and opened the Downtown Harvest Market in a downtown storefront on Saturdays in September and October. Through these efforts, we shared and sold fresh, local food to a wide variety of people in our community, raising over $3,300 for continued food production at the Huss Project in the future.

 

REFLECTION: Pausing to consider with catapult and the daily asterisk

by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

The question has come up with increasing frequency: what happened to catapult?  With many changes in the lives of *cino community members over the past year, 2014 seemed like a good time to pause for a little while and re-imagine the function, look and structure of this longstanding online publication.  We initiated a survey that gleaned rich feedback from both new and veteran readers and contributors and we look forward to digging into those ideas in 2015 to see what seeds show promise of germination in the spring.  In the meantime, the daily asterisk has continued to be a provocative resource, drawing from many voices past and present, who speak insightfully to the pressing issues of our time with celebration and lament, encouragement and repentance, joy and critique.  If you’re not receiving the daily asterisk already, you can sign up for the e-mail list here and dig into the archives here.

 

CONVERSATION: Discussing our core values, our community, and our future

by Deborah Haak

For all of the hustle and bustle of the year, the *cino staff also made concerted efforts to sit, read, discuss, and dream. We gathered each week over the summer with interns to explore *cino’s core values, and that conversation has continued this fall and winter with a discussion of Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging. At the staff retreat this fall, we reflected on 2014, discussing *cino’s successes and shortcomings, evaluating roles and duties in light of staffing changes, and brainstorming where to focus our energy in 2015 and beyond — all while sharing delicious food and enjoying each others’ company!

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Building, Hospitality, People

Our new friends from Palmerston, Ontario

During the week of June 30, the walls of the Huss Project buzzed with the sounds of hammers, nails, laughter, and good-natured Canadian “eh’s?” as a service group from Palmerston, Ontario provided some much-appreciated labor and much-enjoyed friendship to the *culture is not optional team. In partnership with Three Rivers Christian Reformed Church, who arranged the visit and hosted, Huss served as a work site for the group throughout the week.

The Palmerstonians worked long and hard to move Huss a large leap closer to being Future Festival-ready. Some of their hard work went to projects for general Huss improvement, such as removing the fence along Broadway, removing the ceiling in one room, sealing the roof against future leaks, cleaning out debris from the roof,  and clearing the lawn from branches. Other work went specifically to getting Huss prepared for Future Festival, such as weeding and mulching the garden, edging the lawn, removing collected debris, moving lumber and chairs, sorting donations for the Future Festival rummage sale, cleaning the hallways, and cutting decorative bunting. Some work was just part of our weekly maintenance and activities hosted at Huss, such as mowing the lawn and planning that week’s Community Fun Night craft.

All in all, there was a lot of hard work accomplished and a lot of fun had. Our staff learned the lyrics to the Canadian National Anthem (on Canada Day), and some of the Palmerston students were introduced to kale for the first time. Children from the community enjoyed having extra people to play with during community fun nights when our Palmerston friends joined in kickball, crafting, and even teaching the kids basic gymnastics. Some of the Palmerston workers noted that there was a lot of physical labor to be done at Huss, but that they enjoyed it because of the tangible difference they could see was being made. Multiple team members noted their visit to Huss to be their “favorite service project ever!” And we couldn’t be more grateful for their hard work and kind company.

Several teenagers from Three Rivers CRC integrated with the Palmerston group and served alongside them all week. *cino co-director Kirstin Vander Giessen-Retisma noted, “I really appreciated seeing local teens I know from other contexts taking on roles as leaders with the out-of-town volunteers. They did a great job of making their new friends feel welcome here in Three Rivers. Each person’s unique gifts and passions emerged throughout the week — some dove into physical labor, some were patient with tedious tasks, some brought their creativity and friendliness, some entertained the crowd with jokes or dancing or singing (sometimes all at once). Overall, everyone contributed to making the Huss Project a beautiful space for play, hospitality and neighborliness.”

Thank you, Palmerston friends!

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*cino Work, Building, Education

Healing ourselves by healing our places

Kind people are asking me how my time was in California and I’m not sure how to respond yet.  17 days of learning, sharing, hiking, field tripping, observing, storytelling, absorbing — it’s hard to sum up.  I am full of good things.  I am digesting.  I am grateful for new and renewed friends, new and renewed words.

It started last fall when I saw an announcement come through from our friends over at Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries: a permaculture design certificate course, combined with theological reflection.  I’d been interested in permaculture for some time, aware that it could, quite literally, help significantly shape the land of which I’m a steward, which includes the four acres at the Huss Project.  I’d dabbled in some of the foundational and peripheral texts in my work at a local retreat center.  I was already convicted of the reality of our interconnectedness with the natural world and our responsibility to tend and keep as humanity careens toward an unstable future, but I was hungry for more — more skill, more knowledge, more holistic understanding.

The course wove together so many themes, with a complexity akin to that of a thriving forest: restorative justice, bioregional discipleship, Sabbath economics, food justice, ecosystem regeneration.  We sang, we read the biblical narrative, we ate good food, we dreamed about a flourishing future for ourselves and our communities, and we began to learn about ways we could help make that future sprout in our places.  Imagine a world where none of God’s creatures go hungry, where soil is alive, where water is welcomed with the reverence of a people whose story began with a spirit, brooding over the deep.  Permaculture is not just a set of clever gardening tricks.  It’s not even a strategy for sustainability.  It’s a design discipline that reaches toward the flourishing — the shalom — of all creation, and I look forward to seeing how it will begin to regenerate my imagination and my land.

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

College spring break group visits *cino

Last week, we were joined by nine students from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI on a spring break trip in partnership with Calvin’s Service-Learning Center. We had a wonderful week exploring the idea of committing to a place and considering the practical outcomes of place-based living. To that end, we enjoyed tearing up carpet and re-purposing materials at the Huss Project, meeting with so many of the great members of the Three Rivers community, and following a rule of life together at the Hermitage and at St. Gregory’s Abbey. Delicious meals, stimulating conversations, and a respite from the hectic nature of everyday life were savored by both students and *cino staff members. Find more pictures on Flickr, and check back here soon for a full recap of the week!

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Building, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

The end of another *cino summer

Summers are a busy time for *cino folks. We tend to cram as much as we can into the good weather, and this summer was no exception (or perhaps it was as we crammed in more than usual!).This is a short list of what we did during the hottest months of the year:

  • Paid off the mortgage on Huss, making it official *cino property!
  • Planned and executed Future Fest, our biggest summer event, designed to demonstrate what’s possible at Huss and build community through creativity and food.
  • Hosted Family Fun Nights every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to enjoy snacks, games and crafts with our neighbors.
  • Continued our series of Underground Supper Clubs, a brand new fundraising effort in Three Rivers that is definitely making waves.
  • Hosted storytelling nights for potential storytellers to come out to Huss and share their tales.
  • Added to our Huss Stories series, with pieces on Gail Walters, Carol Boulette and Luther Channey.
  • Worked on the school every Friday during the afternoon because there’s always something to be done.
  • Hosted school lunches four days a week in partnership with the local schools because kids need food!
  • Attempted to raise more money for the Huss Project through various grants and activities.
  • Hosted the Calvin College Service-Learning Center staff for a day of training.
  • And, of course, we continued to publish catapult magazine and the daily asterisk this summer before taking our traditional August publishing break.

With the end of summer upon us, we enter into a different phase of *cino’s work, one that is perhaps less stressful, but every bit as important. However, this particular year it is a bittersweet respite we face, as the end of this summer of 2013 has brought with it a host of goodbyes. The farewells began in the early summer with our first interns, Jonathan and Ginna, a pair from Costa Rica who came into the *cino community and infected us all with their enthusiasm and creativity. We then saw the arrival and departure of the other interns, Ainsley, Chelsea, and Jonathan (affectionately dubbed Jonathan #2), who brought with them new ideas and a willingness to explore the values and work of *cino. Interns coming and going is something we’ve grown used to at *cino, though we never relish the idea of their departure (and will often persuade them to stick around, if only for just a little while).

We also said goodbye to two longstanding *cino members in Stephanie and Chad, friends who have been integral to *cino’s development both as individuals and then as newlyweds. We know they will do great things in their new location, and their presence will positively impact all those they come across. Our final goodbye came recently, and it was with heavy hearts that the *cino moving crew packed up the belongings of one Emily “Battleship” Ulmer and docked her in her new home, where she will seek the degree she so richly deserves.

These are bittersweet farewells, certainly, but they are also hopeful ones because the connections we find and cultivate at *cino are the kind that last lifetimes, and we know that these goodbyes are temporary things. So we say ‘so long,’ though it may be with heavy hearts, and we take heart from a great human who once wrote, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

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Building, Fundraising, Organization, Three Rivers

The Huss Project wins $1,000 grant

Wow!  We were so encouraged by all those who voted for the Huss Project in the recent Facebook contest run by the Three Rivers Area Community Foundation.  Over 100 of our friends voiced their support on the TRACF page!  We’re looking forward to dreaming with our board and volunteer staff about how to direct these special funds in a wise and creative way that supports our current strategy to get a room at the Huss Project up and running by December 31.  Thank you to all who voted and spread the word, as well as to TRACF for the generous gift toward *culture is not optional’s community development work in Three Rivers!

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*cino Work, Building, Event

Summer full of art, play and gardening at the Huss Project

With the event calendar filling up for the Huss Project, spending summer days at school has never sounded so appealing! From June through August, the *cino staff and local volunteers are offering an assortment of community-building activities centered on creativity, eating well and growing together.

Through August 6, Family Fun Nights are taking place from 6:00- 8:00 p.m. every Tuesday evening, and feature summertime games, crafts, healthy snacks and plenty of space to chat and relax. “There’s a little something for everyone,” said *cino co-director, Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, “And all ages are welcome, not just families with kids. We think of ‘family’ in terms of the supportive connections we grow with all people—not just those we’re related to.”

Botanical growth is also abundant down at the Huss Project this sunny season. People of all gardening skill levels are invited to come get their hands dirty and cultivate good food with neighbors at the Triple Ripple Community Garden, located behind the school building. “We hope that the garden will not only grow healthy vegetables, but healthy community as well,” said Vander Giessen-Reitsma. Volunteer hours are Tuesdays from 6:00-8:00 p.m. (during Family Fun Night) and from 8:00-10:00 a.m. Thursday and Saturday mornings. All are welcome and no experience is necessary! Interested volunteers can check out the citizen interest form online.

Also taking place at the Huss Project this summer is “Meet Up and Eat Up,” a program organized by Three Rivers Community Schools for school-aged children and teenagers. From June 17-27 and July 8-August 8, lunches are being distributed Monday through Thursday between noon and 12:15 p.m. Adults are also welcome to bring a lunch and enjoy it with the kids in the beautiful, shady yard along Broadway.

Finally, the fourth annual Huss Future Festival is just around the corner! The celebration, which will take place on July 20 from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., will “offer a glimpse of the potential for the old Huss property and provide space for people to get to know their neighbors and enjoy good food, creative activities and each other,” according to Vander Giessen-Reitsma. Alongside a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities, there will also be an art installation, a rummage sale, food, a bake sale and live music featuring local bands.

All of *cino’s neighbors near and far are invited to join in summer activities at the Huss Project, which is located at the historic Huss School property at 1008 8th Street in Three Rivers.

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Building, Three Rivers

We’ve reached our first goal! Halfway there …

We are very, very excited to announce that we’ve reached the first goal in our ongoing Brick Campaign for the Huss Project: $50,000 by June 15! This means not only will we get to keep our building — the headquarters for our Three Rivers community development work — but we’ll also own the property outright without debt. This means that the other $50,000 we hope to raise by the end of the year can be used directly for building improvements that will move the Huss Project vision forward. Here’s what’s next:

  • The Great Toilet Challenge! We’re audacious enough to think that we can raise another $2,000 by June 15 in order to get two bathrooms functional this summer.  Can you pitch in?
  • Our next campaign goal is to reach $58,000 by July 20, the date of this year’s Future Festival. This funding will be used for an initial consultation with an architect and will hopefully provide missing details that will be necessary for renovation.  These are the kinds of details we’ll need to apply for grant funding.
  • Meeting the Great Toilet Challenge will go a significant way toward meeting our last goal of the campaign.  By the end of the year, we want to have at least one room in the school functional year-round — with heat and running water.  With your help, we think we can do it!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the over 165 donors who have contributed to this campaign so far.  We are so grateful for your support and we look forward to moving forward together toward flourishing at the Huss Project, in Three Rivers and beyond!

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Building, Fundraising

One month … and less than $10,000 to go!

Thanks to the amazing generosity of supporters near and far, we are less than $10,000 away from our big $50,000 goal with just under one month left until June 15 when our mortgage is due.  We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are so proud of the progress we’ve made so far through your support.  Notable accomplishments have included:

As we continue to raise funds toward our goal, we’ll also be busy preparing for loads of summer programming around the Huss Project, including Family Fun Nights, the community garden, summer interns and lunches for local kids.  Rest assured, we’ll keep you posted on all fronts!

Please consider buying a $100 brick to help us meet our $50,000 goal.  If you can’t purchase a brick, please consider donating a smaller amountevery contribution helps!  

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*cino Work, Building, Fundraising

Will we lose our building June 15?

Last week, we announced a change in the goals for our Brick Campaign, which is an effort to raise $100,000 for *cino’s Huss Project through the sale of 1,000 bricks for $100 each.  Essentially, we’ve extended the timeline to reflect our actual progress and prioritize a critical deadline: we need to raise $50,000 by June 15 to cover the balloon payment on our mortgage.  Many generous donors have helped us reach our current status of $35,800 — amazing!  We’re well on our way, but certainly not out of the woods yet.

While the Huss Project is just part of *culture is not optional’s work, it’s a project that’s really been growing and thriving in interesting ways over since we purchased the historic Huss School in 2009.  The Huss Project sprouted out of a desire to practice — on the ground, in a place — the ideas *cino has been talking about through conferences, an online magazine and other publishing efforts since 2001.  As such, the Huss property and the surrounding community of Three Rivers, Michigan have provided fertile soil for exploring what deeply rooted values of love, compassion, justice, hospitality, imagination and peace might look like, lived out in a specific time and place.

There have been abundant joys and challenges in this journey of the past few years, and the looming June 15 mortgage deadline is certainly the challenge we are most conscious of at the moment.  But the joy is present there as well: if we reach this deadline, we will own the building outright, freeing up $500 a month to begin investing directly into infrastructure improvement and even more programming.  We hope you will join us at this critical moment in our efforts to practice resurrection in Three Rivers and beyond!

How you can pitch in:

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