*cino Work, Organization, People

Internship application deadline

We are quickly approaching our 2014 summer internship application deadline:  April 15.  If you are still interested in joining the *cino intentional community for this summer, please get your application in as soon as possible. We’re getting excited for all of the new energy to join us as we prepare for summer programming!

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*cino Work, Event, Three Rivers

Coming soon: student groups + justice films

The next few weeks will be busy for the *cino gang, with lots of good learning, sharing, eating, field tripping and film-festing!  Here’s what we’re looking forward to…

March 15: Project Neighborhood Retreat

45 students and mentors from the Calvin College intentional living communities will join us for a day-long retreat to explore community life after college and experience some of the things that make Three Rivers a unique place to live and serve.

March 22-29: Spring Break Service-Learning Trip

For the fifth year in a row, we’ll host a group of Calvin College students here in Three Rivers to explore themes like rule of life, place, contemplation, activism, agriculture, art, government, local business and more.  We’ll stay at the Hermitage Community, and serve throughout the week at the Huss Project, wrapping up our time together with a night at St. Gregory’s Abbey.

April 4-5: Rivers of Justice Film Festival

This annual event, organized by World Fare and a committee of volunteers, is expanding this year to feature three films over the course of two nights (plus a potluck and a reception with complimentary appetizers, of course!).  For a complete schedule and trailers, visit the film festival web site.

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*cino Work, Organization, People, Rectory Stories

Seeking 2014 summer interns!

Although I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I moved to Three Rivers as a *cino intern, I had a good feeling about it: I had spent a week in Three Rivers a few months before, and I had gotten a glimpse of what this whole *cino thing is. I saw people doing their part to live simply and to work in community with each other, with their neighbors, with the earth, and with God. I got hooked by the compelling vision and values of the organization.  I was invited into those moments that every non-profit experiences — moments that make the heart sing and moments that make the stomach turn. I’ve been able to utilize my gifts, and I’ve been challenged to improve my weaknesses. I’m happy to say that, over two and a half years after moving here (and after graduating from “intern” to “volunteer staff”), that good feeling remains.

We welcome flexible and committed individuals who wish to embrace community, simple living, social justice and spirituality in everyday life. Interns who are independent self-starters, have some experience living independently away from their parents’ home and work well under little supervision are often best suited for *cino internships. The 2014 summer internship runs officially from June 1 to August 15. Interns live together in a house, alongside the more permanent resident community of the organization, and are asked to contribute an average of 20 hours of volunteer work per week for *cino. Interns can also look for part-time employment in the community if necessary.

If you have an interest in farming and gardening, planning special events, or communications and promotion, read more about our intern positions! Do you have a different set of skills that you think would benefit *culture is not optional? ApplyWant to know more about what *cino interns actually do? Read these reflections from our 2013 interns GinnaJonathanChelsea, and AinsleyWondering what you’ll get out of the internship after two and a half months? Glad you asked! What about jobs, loans, fundraising, and other details? Find the answers to these questions and more here.

If you know someone who would be a good match, please pass along the encouragement to apply!

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*cino Work, Fundraising

Finishing 2013 and moving into the new year!

To request a 2014 *cino sharing calendar, which is being assembled in the above photo, please contact us!

As we deepen into the season of Advent and anticipate the celebration of God’s great gift to humanity, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months of work with *culture is not optional, which has taken the form of publishing, community development, events and intentional community.

2013 has been a wild, wonderful year in which the members of our volunteer staff have pushed ourselves to grow individually and collectively.  Our community of supporters has responded graciously and enthusiastically, reinforcing our commitment to serve joyfully alongside our neighbors in Three Rivers, while reaching out beyond our small town through publishing and education.  We’ve said hello and goodbye to new and old friends, and closed out the year with a huge party.  In addition to hours and hours of volunteer time in the form of writing, organizing, playing, creating, welcoming, gardening, cooking and more, the Huss Project Brick Campaign has raised $77,100 to date to pay off our mortgage and begin funding renovations on our building.  What abundance!  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed feeding our friends delicious food at Underground Supper Clubs, Friday night dinners and storytelling potlucks.

Through a fall retreat, weekly staff meetings and monthly virtual board meetings, we’ve begun the process of setting goals for the coming year, which include:

  • Sustaining and growing our programming in Three Rivers: the community garden, Future Festival, summer internships, Family Fun Nights, service-learning trips, summer lunches, storytelling nights and art installations.
  • Continuing on the path of organizing, problem-solving and resourcing around occupancy for the old kindergarten room at the Huss Project.
  • Strengthening institutional partnerships with local organizations and regional colleges.
  • Cultivating supportive relationships with local businesses.
  • Growing our structure for leadership within our organization and with the greater community.
  • Increasing our monthly donations from the current level of $1,240 to $2,000.

Toward the goal of increasing monthly donations as well as continuing to foster a sense of sharing among our community of supporters, we’ve created a special sharing calendar for 2014.  Please get in touch if you’d like us to send you one.  Calendars feature *cino-ish quotes for each month, along with a short description of what our work consists of at that time of year.  You can use it however you like — as a reminder for a monthly gift, as a suggestion of what to hold in prayer, as a source of ideas for offering skills or resources, as encouragement for your daily life.  We would also welcome a special end-of-year donation for 2013 if you are able, which always goes a long way in helping sustain our work from one year into the next.

Thank you for continuing to hold *cino’s multi-faceted work in the light with your prayers and generosity.  May you be surprised by joy in this season of expectation and wonder!

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*cino Work, Event, Hospitality, Uncategorized

First summer storytelling night focuses on decisions

The summer storytelling season kicked off down at the Huss Project on Friday, June 28 with the thought-provoking and (to some) deceptively intricate theme: The Best Decision I Ever Made.

A day of cleaning and decorating again transformed the old kindergarten room of Huss School into a place of hospitality and attentiveness. As will be the custom for each storytelling event, food came first — potluck style — to quiet our bellies, lift our spirits and ease us into a mode of comfortable conversation after a long week of work and responsibilities (or night travel and weddings). Potted centerpieces sat on softly patterned tablecloths, and the light from assorted chandeliers mixed with the warm summer sunbeams that slipped in through the open door. As a first time attendee, let me say: *cino staff knows how to set the mood, y’all.

After the meal, emcee Jonathan Huang (a summer intern) took the stage (a stool) and began by reminding us why we dare to let our guards down and share a few pages from our personal stories: to cross barriers and learn from our neighbors. With that, the microphone was left to wait for the first brave soul. Nudges and whispered “No, you go’s” continued until *cino staff member Jay Howard groaned, “Fine,” and jaywalked to the stool. He was the first of many to fill the room with the tale of a single, often casual, choice — a choice that continues rippling through one’s life, rich and transformative, years after it’s made.

I didn’t share a story that evening — I’m still exploring my history of stellar decisions — but I felt just as much a part of the occasion as those who were bold enough to sit exposed. There’s nothing like a living room full of thoughtful friends, and that’s exactly what we found in that half-renovated learning space. We lent our eyes and ears for as long as any speaker needed, opened our minds to memory, and even hung on during the inescapable pauses that followed each, “Oh, shoot … I’ve got to backtrack.”

Join us for the next summer storytelling night on Friday, June 12 at the Huss Project (1008 8th Street in Three Rivers).  Bring a dish to share for the potluck at 7:00 p.m. and a tale to share for storytelling time from 8:00-9:00 p.m.  Listeners are welcome, too!

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*cino Work, Organization, Three Rivers

June 2013 *cino board report

After meeting online for several months in a row, the *cino board enjoyed a face-to-face meeting in Three Rivers on June 26.  We gathered at the Huss Project for conversation that primarily centered on future strategy and funding resources.  Then, we headed to the rectory where the *cino intentional community lives and Gail Heffner, a board member with extensive non-profit experience, led a workshop on writing fundraising letters with our new summer interns and several other leaders within the organization.  Finally, as is our habit, we shared food!  A variety of summertime delights filled our table at the rectory as we connected with old friends and new, continuing to build the kinds of relationships that sustain us in our ongoing work.  We are grateful for all of the partners who join us in this work and would appreciate your prayers as we seek to be faithful stewards of our mission to model and encourage creative communities rooted in the love of Christ. Current *cino board members are Jeff Bouman, Grant Elgersma, Gail Heffner, Tim Raakman and Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma.

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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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*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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*cino Work, Hospitality, Rectory Stories

Would you like to hear a story? It could be embarrassing…

Hello! My name is Christina and this is my first post to the *cino intern blog. A little intro about myself: I am a rising senior at Calvin College studying theatre. As part of my internship with *cino I am collecting stories about Huss School through interviews with people in the community, which I will then edit to create a performance at the end of the summer. I am really excited to learn more about Three Rivers and to be part of the transformation of Huss School. Through our workdays at the school, cooking together, eating together, and sharing stories, I’ve come to know and love the fellow interns, staff, and other *cino supporters.
Last night we assembled to welcome the new CINO interns and host the first storytelling night of the summer. Much in the vein of The Moth Podcast, for those familiar with NPR, we held an open mike for stories relating to a particular theme. Last night we told identity stories. I love stories! As a theatre enthusiast, I believe stories have the power to reinforce identity, build community, and, please forgive the cliché, change the world.
In many ways, last night’s event confirmed my personal beliefs about storytelling. I felt honored, welcomed into this group of friends gathered in our home to share memories of the people and events that shaped their character. Our stories ranged in location from Three Rivers to Korea and the tales depicted adoption, journeys, violins, marriage, unexpected finds, birth, death, and beards. It takes a certain amount of courage to stand before an audience and speak. In my theatre experience, I usually have a character, someone else’s identity, to hide behind. It can be so much scarier to stand before a crowd, as yourself, to share something personal. As anyone with stage fright can tell you, the audience can be very intimidating. Who knows what they are thinking? How they are judging you? Fortunately, last night’s audience was compassionate and attentive. However, the situation still held the potential for embarrassment. But that is a good thing.
Last semester, for my directing class, I read Anne Bogart’s collection of essays on art and theatre from the book A Director Prepares. In one of her essays Bogart discusses the potential for embarrassment in art. She writes, “If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then very likely no one will be touched by it.” Painfully embarrassing moments include times when we feel ashamed of ourselves, when we reveal something intensely personal and intimate, and, of course, the times we rip our pants in public. People avoid embarrassment for good reason. It is not always safe for us to reveal ourselves and relive embarrassing moments. We do not want to make ourselves vulnerable to everyone. However, sharing moments where you felt intense shame or exposure can be a wonderful bonding experience, when you are with the right group of people. I have been to enough slumber parties to verify that fact.
Fortunately, last night’s audience made up a wonderful, welcoming, and compassionate community. Although I am still new to Three Rivers, I felt an unusual familiarity with the people I met last night. They greeted me with hugs, smiles, and jokes. Perhaps this is part of the culture of a small town. However, I think part of the familiarity comes from our common support of *cino and the organization’s mission to strengthen community and create good culture. I felt blessed to be in an environment where others felt safe opening up. I heard wonderful and powerful stories. I believe I witnessed something sacred. We recorded a number of the stories. I thought I might post some of the clips here, but I’ve decided against that. The Internet is not a safe environment to reveal my identity story. I bet you’re really interested now ;) I hope that tantalizing recap will convince you to participate in our next storytelling event. Maybe you might even tell an embarrassing story. Regardless, wherever you are, I encourage you to listen compassionately, without judgment. We could all use an empathetic audience.

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*cino Work


For the past year or so I have noticed what an incredibly independent person I really am. As a youngster I was consistently titled ‘loner’, as I spent many of my afternoons strolling, you guessed it, alone through my neighborhood. I would often observe the spectacle of swirling suburban life while swinging my 65-pound body in long arcs from the rope on the elementary school flagpole.
In my teens, the independence that characterized my primary school years blossomed into a full-blown addiction to video games; ‘vids’ my dad called them. I wanted my life to be uniquely mine, every virtual second unimpeded by other people. If that meant spending it alone, so be it.
In college, I fortunately discovered the emptiness of video gaming and gave up the habit. But something residual waited to be discovered — something more persistent, more subtle and unassuming and inconspicuous. There was a sense, a spirit, a sort of apparition, a lingering presence, hiding behind the disguise of video game addictions and other anti-social behaviors that characterize how (mostly) males of my generation spend their time. But I had no idea in those years that anything was behind these cultural phenomena.
It wasn’t until last year, after I emigrated from the rigors of collegeland, that I began unearthing the chassis that bore my addiction to vids.
I uncovered my first glimpses of the elusive force behind it all when I realized how staunchly I defended my projects as exclusively my own – whether it be building a workbench, keeping bees, or an activity as simple as baking. I didn’t want any help, thank you very much. I’ll knead it myself!
This offhanded and rather abrasive exclusion of friends from my life and projects was cause of no few number of relational lacerations, but I was fortunate to have friends who vocalized their discontent, having been rubbed wrong.
Because of their consistent efforts, I started sewing together a patchwork of experiences, stories of failures and successes to include others. Until at last, I could, stepping back, espy the skeleton of that wurm Individualism.
Being in Three Rivers, I’ve been immensely impressed by the overwhelming and enduring sense and spirit of cooperation, commiseration (for better of for worse), and sharing. After all, is it not volunteers who provide the human equivalents of petrol, time and energy, to keep World Fare running; ensigns who help eviscerate Huss School on work days; and community members who till earth and ensure that tomato, and not pokeweed, leaves are making use of that most coveted resource, sunshine? “The whole place seems to run on altruism and generosity, for Pete’s sake,” a visiting capitalist might spit.
It has been a pleasure to live among people sharing a common vision for the future of Small Town American life, one that includes self-sufficiency, and promotes an alternative to capitalism, a fairness to all our neighbors, a much-needed altruism and lending hand to the disenfranchised.
In spite of these wonderfully lofty goals, however, I feel I have far to come in terms of behaving in ways that align with these most righteous sentiments. I can best demonstrate this with a story from intern life.
The latest daydream in ThreeRiversland among us interns and bosses is a pay-what-you-can restaurant in the downtown district. It’s a feasible project for next year, provided we obtain a few extra dollars and (debatable) a miracle. The interns and bosses would together run the shop, raising money for the Huss School project and *cino’s publications and whatnot, while contemporaneously building a slew of new relationships with the public and providing a space for like-minded people to gather, converse, and launch their own projects.
Last week, gardeners involved in the Triple Ripple Community plot were gathered to celebrate their first year and the hundreds of pounds of produce they shared with each other and with families in need. Strolling in a little late to the potluck, I found a seat next to Julianna Sauber, who had coordinated the garden and overseen much of what was done there from groundbreaking in spring to cover-cropping in late summer.
We got to talking about what she does for a living and then on to her hopes for what she’d like to be doing next year.
‘I’d really like to establish a pay-what-you-can restaurant with an attached co-op in downtown Three Rivers,’ she explained.
Hmm, sounds familiar, I thought.
Boy! Was I at once nervous she had beat us to our idea, frustrated that we were low on funds, skeptical of her commitment to the project, and disappointed that we’ve obtained a competitor.
“I can feel your anger.” I could hear Emperor Palpatine, over my left shoulder, breathing heavily under his black robes, smiling from behind his permanent frown, his jaundiced eyes glimmering as he watched me wriggle in discontent.
Thrashing my head and neck from my strangely nerdy daydream, I collapsed out of our conversation and into introspection:
Why do I protect my projects and dreams so very defensively? Why am I so predisposed not to cooperate and share those dreams with others since, after all, the realization of those dreams would serve the common good?
I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I came around.
Individualism. Individualism, the religion.
It literally happened to the States in the last 70 years, when Eisenhower commissioned the Interstate System and the Second World War brought our busting home economies to boom, when the masses fled the connectivity implicit in the cities for the insular residences of the ‘burbs, when every man finally obtained (or dreamed of obtaining) his own ‘castle’, complete with artificial moat and blow-up floaty gators and portcullis.
And the landscape of suburbia – and all that it does to the human mind and, dare I say it, soul – I believe, contributes to the all-pervading sense of independence and dogmatic Individualism and Freedom (yes, with a capital F) that brings our collective good to the sludgepiles.
This sort of mentality manifests itself in cutthroat ferocity and ceaseless competition and monopoly in Economics, and in strain and distance in our relationships. It razes Mom and Pop’s and throws up another Applebee’s. It voids Gary, Indiana, and severs the countless friendships that were moored there for decades by miles-between-their-new-homes and inconvenience.
And here I am, both a victim and willing participant of American Individualism, a child of the American empire, a legatee of this legacy, the heir of a land built by Self. So I begin to think how very natural it is for me to be so defensive and exclusionary and independent.
But the nagging suspicion – that I am missing out on something greater by keeping my friends, allies and co-conspirators at a cubit’s distance – lingers on. And the presence of that suspicion strengthens and deepens and grows more weighty with each week here in Three Rivers. Among a whole host of well-intending friends, bosses and volunteers, who all seek the justice they themselves and all others deserve, that suspicion will no doubt bloom into a righteous contempt for the economic disparity and for all other ills that ravage this small town’s inhabitants.
Perhaps it is this righteous contempt for injustice that will slowly draw the shroud from my eyes and unify me with all those who make God’s work their own, with those who strive – alongside their allies – to refuse the lies proffered by America’s religion.

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