*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

Sharing

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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*cino Work, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Settled, just.

Welcome to this new space for us lovely *cino interns to let you know what we’re up to while we’re hiding down (or up, I guess) in Three Rivers, MI.
Currently there are 4 of us here: Myself, Johnathan Loritsch, Liz Wroughton, and Jared Renaud – all recent Calvin grads.
Why are we here? All of us know Rob and Kirstin slightly different ways, but all through Calvin, and generally speaking through their (awesome) work in the SAO.
But why are we here? I’ll save that for later – we can all explain our own reasons!
Where are we? Three Rivers is a little over an hour south of Grand Rapids, and not far north of the Indiana border. Three Rivers (or ThrEHrivers as it is pronounced here) has population 7,500 (ish), and an interesting mix of vacant downtown storefronts and funky places you wouldn’t expect outside a larger city (including World Fare, a fair trade store that Rob and Kirstin started, and the Riviera Theater, a recently renovated movie theater that shows great movies and has frequent concerts, and most impressively, Lowry’s book store, an intimidatingly large [3 store fronts] space with a mammoth collection of used and new books).
And where are WE? The interns are living in the rectory of the close-by Trinity Episcopal Church (a.k.a. the Insurrectory, a.a.k.a. the Resurrectory). We’re allowed to stay here rent-free for the moment – which is super.
We arrived 3 and a half weeks ago, and at this point we’re pretty settled. Liz, Johnathan and I arrived first, aided by local (and sole) Three Rivers CRC pastor Tim Raakman, whose lovely church I finally got to visit yesterday. Tim has his own moving truck, which helped a lot in getting things down here, and has since helped immensely in moving furniture into our house.
We’ve been blessed by the generosity of *cino’s Three Rivers community in furnishing the house. We moved into what was an unfurnished house that hadn’t been lived in for around 4 years. After extended periods of cleaning and organizing, the house (wallpaper aside) is spacious and a great place to live. Rob and Kirstin had sent out requests for furniture and appliances and kitchenware, and within a very short period of time everything we could have needed was provided. With the help of the aforementioned moving truck, we filled the house with chests, beds, mattresses, linens, utensils, and a ridiculous tv harvested from the Huss School building.
In the time after the three of us arrived, there has been a lot of moving around. I was gone for a week travelling, and Liz also left fairly soon after. Marian Mooi, another Calvin grad, was here for 2 weeks, and Johnathan has also been away for 10 days. As July now approaches, we have been joined by Jared, and now that Liz has returned from Texas we will have a full house for a full month!
What has been going on in the first month? Some highlights include….

  • all of us working shifts in the World Fare store
  • looooots of work at the Huss School (cleaning, moving, breaking, fixing, roofs, organizing, throwing out)
  • eating meals on our huge front porch
  • watching lightning storms on our huge front porch
  • dishes by candlelight during a power outage
  • watching Anne of Green Gables
  • playing loud music
  • discovering a good dumpster (food costs have plummeted)

One recent highlight worth a brief narrative is the visit of a band (flock? drove? herd?) of 4 cyclists riding across the country. Rob heard about these happy four from Lowry’s books, where they had been asking about a place to pitch tents. These four women, all who attended the same college in Florida, were biking across the country, starting from Washington D.C., and had arrived for the night in Three Rivers. We offered them the intern house to stay at, which was a nice break from the outdoors. It was a Thursday, which is the weekly time that the interns host Rob and Kirstin for dinner, and so a large meal gathering was already planned, and it was fun to bring our group up to 9 people from 5. We had a good time hanging out with the cyclists, who ended up staying a second night (they were very welcome, after cooking dumpster hash browns for us their first morning), and hope to host more friends and randoms while we’re living here.
What are we each doing? I leave this until last so that others can give their own accounts. I myself am working on grant research at the moment. At the same time, we are all looking ahead to July 24, a big fund-raising event at the school, and are all pitching in to get the space ready. Johnathan will be able to say more about that event, since he’s working mainly on preparation for it.

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