*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for three compassionate, creative, hard-working people to join us full-time for 10 weeks this summer as Americorps VISTA Summer Associates! Applicants should be 18 years of age or older, with a passion for serving our Three Rivers community through urban farming, event planning, and youth engagement. The term runs from June 3 – August 11, with a living stipend of $2,361.10 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,289.95 or a cash stipend of $346.80. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until noon on May 13 or until all three positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!
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!
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.
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.
As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Danielle’s reflection; above: Danielle organizing books in our rummage sale for Future Fest.
A time to plant and a time to uproot
I first heard about *cino at a time when I was contemplating how it would be possible for me to live the way I had dreamed of living. Rob and Kirstin came to speak at a class I was in and I thought to myself, “that’s it, that how I want to be living.” It started because I wanted to evaluate what I had done with my life and where I saw myself going. Up to that point, I was riding mostly on track with the the typical road laid out for your average 21-year-old. I had just finished my first semester as a junior in college, had a part time job, and was looking into the career paths my major would undoubtedly hurl me towards. I was living in complete accordance with the mundane and standard, and no part of me wanted to be there. Thus, my resolution was to start living with intent; find the things I wanted to do, and do them. My summer in Three Rivers working with *cino taught me the craft of intentional living; how to eat, play, work, and speak as if we if we actually meant to.
At the beginning of the summer we planted. Digging holes in the ground to place new seeds, eventually to become our sauce, roasted roots, and spiced everything. Each Friday night at the Rectory, we could expect to see *cino friends and neighbors gathered together to share stores and food creations, usually along some unspoken theme of whatever had been harvested that week. There is something about knowing the soil, from planting to watching the dirt run off your hands in the sink that connects you to your plate. During this internship, I spent a long time becoming connected to my plate. I prepared food with my roommates over long ambitious worldview conversations, road my bike to the Huss Project to snip herbs for our meal, and cooked with the knowledge that our food would soon be bringing people to our table. With *cino, I learned how to love my plate, the food that was on it, and the people that were around the table with me.
Growing up, having people over for dinner was rare. In fact having a dinner with my whole family was rare. In my pursuit of intentional living, I wanted to be in a place where it was common to know the faces walking on the street. In Three Rivers, people do. Not just because it’s a small town, but because the community is deeply rooted through generations of interconnected stories of this place. Working at Huss, I would meet neighbors frequently who would stroll up to the building and say, “You know, I actually went to Huss.” They were excited to explain their past and, for many of them, share why Huss is the reason they stayed in Three Rivers. In the months I stayed here, I learned what it was like to be late because you were stopped on the street by someone who wanted to say hello. I’ve always wanted to live in a place like that, and in Three Rivers it took less than two months to get there.
I started out in this internship thinking that the people in *cino were actively living the way I had dreamed of and I wasn’t wrong. I have had so many conversations about the way we ought to live and work and being here was like getting first hand experience into that life. For all of my three months here, I lived the way I had fantastically imagined only to be possible in a very distant future. I planted food that would feed our neighbors, started intentional conversations, shared stories, and purposely explored avenues of art and culture. At *cino I learned how to work, eat, and play as if I had intentionally meant to do so.
As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Mariana’s reflection; above: Mariana working the coffee shop at Huss Future Festival.
A time to plant and a time to uproot
My time at *cino has come to an end. On Sunday (August 13), I will travel back to my other homes in Grand Rapids and Wisconsin with a familiarity I greatly cherish.
This summer has been a unique 10 weeks for me. I graduated from college in May, and I will start my job as a nurse in October. I did my best to keep my mind from wondering into the future of October—I didn’t want to be preoccupied with the excitement and anxiety and whirlwind of starting, officially, the post-grad life. I also did my best to keep my mind from lingering into the past—it was, is, bittersweet to remember my old house, my housemates, my neighbors, the familiar sounds outside my window that would lull me to sleep.
I wanted this summer to root me to the past and to orient me to the future. Over the past four years, there are values and things (that aren’t actually things) that have become especially important to me: community, faithfulness, sustainability, kindness, hospitality, inclusiveness, family, friends. I was kind of scared that I would lose sight of, or forget, those values moving into this new phase of life, that I wouldn’t be surrounded by (or that I would stray from, and/or that I wouldn’t seek) a community that would foster those values. As I’ve ashamedly sang many mornings in church, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” Well, after this summer, after being in this place and being surrounded by the people I’ve been surrounded by, I’m less afraid of straying. I’ve become rooted enough, for now.
As for the oriented-to-the-future thing, well, I think I’ve come to a satisfying place with that, too. I think that I am sufficiently armed with the weapons I need to combat and not fall into the false ideas of what it means to live the good life. I’m still a pacifist; it’s just that it feels like a battle sometimes.
I’ve enjoyed my time in Three Rivers—strawberry milkshakes; the backroad to Huss; black cherry tomatoes; floating down the St. Joseph river; Thursday Farmers Market; blueberries; the light of the setting sun, eerie and beautiful, over the garden. I imagine that when I return to visit Three Rivers, I’ll return with a familiarity similar to the one I leave with.
As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Jerry’s reflection; above: Jerry at one of our storytelling events at the Huss Project.
I am a student at Olivet Nazarene University studying criminal justice. It would seem unorthodox or untraditional for a criminal justice major to be involved in an internship with *cino. The reason why *cino grabbed my attention is because of the community engagement driven focus that this organization has. I want to strengthen my social and community engagement skills and this internship truly did just that.
Summer lunches brought kids together from 11:30am to 12:30pm for lunch every weekday. I was only able to staff this once a week, but it was the highlight of my week. It was a blessing to even have a brief moment to hang out with the kids of Three Rivers. I wish I had more time to invest in them. Pam, the staff person from the school district, invests hours of her day to prepare the meals and to provide them. I want to do something like this or spark this in the community that I have the blessing to serve.
*cino’s weekly potluck creates an intentional community of sharing. Each person brings something to the table. This is probably the part of the week that most people look forward to; to end the week with people who in time almost become a family to share a meal is amazing.
Seeing the yield and growth of Project Farm and the hard work that was done was truly empowering—urban farming is possible and with community support it can flourish. Working alongside community members is something I want to do as a police officer. It would be awesome to be a part of a community garden with the image of a cop. I believe that being seen as normal and equal it can create relationships between law enforcement and the community they serve.
Huss Future Fest probably impacted me the most. We as a group put a lot of time and stress into putting together the event. What gave this event such beauty was not our effort but the volunteers and community that came together. This event would not have been possible without them.
I have a lot of respect for Rob and Kirstin and that they started the spark that is now the Huss Project and *cino. If I can be or do anything like that which *cino has started and implement that with the role of law enforcement then that is the first few steps of impacting the field of law enforcement in a positive way.
As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Annelie’s reflection; above: Annelie with a praying mantis she found while harvesting potatoes at Project Farm.
The joy of sharing stories, questions, good food, and lots of weeding
During my past three years of college life, my heart has been full of many dreams and ponderings, tingling inclinations of radically different ways to live life that I’ve longed to explore but never felt the right opportunity to delve deeply into. Also my hasty pace of college life, although a very rich time of learning, has filled me with insightful words and theories untested outside of the intellectual bubble of the classroom. I was longing for the opportunity where conversations about what the good life looks in vocation, lifestyle choices, religion, farming, politics etc. transformed from words into a passionate experiment of life lived out with deep conviction in the messy chaos of life. On top of all that I also really wanted to spend a summer farming, a summer outside just growing things to see what it was like to live close to the earth and close to the people I’d work and learn with.
Becoming a part of the *cino community this summer has been exactly this kind of opportunity and so much more. What I found in this place was the interweaving of hearts intentionally pursuing a truer, richer vision of life through everyday rhythms like sharing food together as well as through adventurously grand tasks like turning a hundred year old school into a community center and urban farm. What I especially enjoyed in this summer was not only getting to be in a space where things like lettuce sprouts and selling heads of kohlrabi at the farmers market were joyful occasions, but also being in a community where the practices of work, joy, searching, thoughtful conversation, laughter, and imagination were all being explored with a dedicated patience that is uncommon to find in the rush of this world.
Through all my experiences this summer—like working in the dirt every day, helping create and put on the Huss Future Festival, and sharing incredible food together every Friday night—I got to ponder and experiment with so many questions. What does joy look like when we’re covered in sweat and dirt? What does empathy look like when we have a difficult conversation ahead of us? What does experiential learning look like when the tomato plants aren’t doing well? What does honesty look like when we tell stories together? What does community look like when we want to celebrate together, share our gifts, or eat spaghetti together? What does thriving look like in the small everyday diversity, the ocean of moments of waves rising and falling, each moment different, each moment integral to our growth, moment by moment, stitch by stitch learning in every weave, tangle, and coming together of the colors of life. I have learned from being around such thoughtful minds to always be asking questions, pondering, and imagining in a deeper way and to relish the feast of learning that this brings.
I have also learned the bliss and deep-seated joy of getting to do work that I am so fully in love with and to do this beautiful work of farming, storytelling, and community growing with people who are filled with the passion for their work and the commitment to constantly learning how our work and passion can grow its roots into the many roots and stories of the community of Three Rivers.
This summer I have gotten to weed so much that dirt has creased itself deep into my hands. I’ve learned the touch and texture of the leaves, stems, and roots of all our plants so much so that our tomatoes have turned my hands green, then black from constant work with these free spirited vines. I’ve gotten to imagine art differently and create with unrestrained playfulness in planning the art tent for Future Fest. And most of all, I’ve gotten to do all these things with new friends who have become some of the dearest and most incredible people in my life because of the endless flow of laughter, honesty, and insight that we have shared with each other. I’ve been given the space and time (two tremendous gifts) to grow with such wonderful people, our four person summer house crew of diverse stories with a shared curiosity for how to live life intentionally together, the *cino community so full of encouragement, innovation, and joyful grit, and all the people of Three Rivers who I’ve gotten to learn from and share stories with this summer.
I can’t imagine a more impactful summer than this and I’m overflowing with gratitude for all the vision and determination it has taken to make this internship possible for us this summer. Thank you *cino friends, Rectory mates, and Three Rivers community for helping me learn a more beautiful way to weave my story into the community of stories that all join together in the great river of life.
Join us for our 10-week summer internship program in Three Rivers, Michigan! We’re looking for folks who are self-motivated and interested in the cross-section of social justice, local food, community, and deep-rooted faith values to join *culture is not optional (*cino) in Three Rivers as we work toward the flourishing of our rural city.
The 2017 summer internship runs from June 1 to August 12. Interns live together in our community house, work alongside our core community on our community development work, and learn together through an embodied curriculum. Interns are expected to contribute an average of 20 hours of work per week for *cino. Interns can also work up to 20 hours per week at local partner farms in the area to earn additional income. Here are the practical benefits of the internship:
- Living stipend (up to $1,000)
- Up to $2,000 at partner farms
If you have an interest in farming and gardening, planning special events, communications and promotion, or small business, read more about the intern positions we’re looking to fill this summer. Do you have a different set of skills that you think would benefit *cino and Three Rivers? Apply! Want to know more about what *cino interns actually do? Read reflections from last year’s interns: Chelsea, Lauren O., Lauren A., Tess, and Aubrey.
We’re also excited to announce our Yearlong Residency Program! Start as a Summer Intern and then continue as a member of the *cino community until the following summer. This program is a unique opportunity to experience the rhythm of intentional community throughout the year, allowing for deeper engagement with our neighbors and with the work. See our Residency FAQ for more information.
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