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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Event, Hospitality, People, Three Rivers

Final summer storytelling night

It’s been a week of closure for *cino and the Huss Project. Earlier last week we had our final Family Fun Night of the summer, this week saw a bittersweet farewell to our remaining summer interns, and last Friday we had our last Storytelling night. The final Storytelling in our series of nights at Huss drew quite a crowd. Some were there for the food, some for the stories, and all for the chance to be around others and engage in something unusual for Three Rivers.

One thing we pass along during each storytelling night is the reason why we do this: *cino is passionate about storytelling. “The stories we tell and hear teach us and shape us,” said Emily Ulmer, *cino’s staff coordinator for this storytelling series. “Stories can challenge us to empathize with people greatly different from ourselves and stories can give us comfort at the end of a hard day. We are so grateful for all those willing to listen to the stories of others and those who are willing to share.”

And we are grateful. People who we might never have expected to share have come out to Huss and allowed us to empathize with them. We’ve had poems and prose, tears and laughter, and plenty of food to absorb it all.

This last night of storytelling was a strange mix. We had long moments of pause, people deliberating on whether or not they wanted to brave the microphone. But we also had more stories than on any other night, to the point where it seemed like we might keep telling stories until the moon passed overhead. In some ways, that’s the best type of storytelling experience. Knowing that people want to keep telling stories and keep listening is magic in its own way. And it was a lovely send-off to a summer full of stories, both told and un-told, and we hope that we can do even better next year. There are always more stories to tell, and the story of *cino’s journey in Three Rivers, and that off The Huss Project, is only getting stronger. We hope to see you, whether or not you’ve joined us so far, at next year’s summer series of stories. Until then!


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Event, People

Summer storytelling: My neighborhood

The idea of a neighborhood can take many forms, from a dorm community to a country road to a typical suburban lane. We found all of these archetypes and more as we gathered on July 12 to tell stories at Huss, a building in its own neighborhood with its own neighbors and enough stories to fill even its cavernous halls. If you listen closely, preferably at night when the story ghosts are strong, you might even hear one or two. We heard nearly a dozen.

  • Our first story involved the vandalism of a street sign by a spelling-conscious young lady; a woman whose convictions to see words rightly displayed overcame any reluctance she might have felt at tearing down a piece of city property.
  • Next up was a visual story, a snaking map of overlapping roads depicting important neighborhoods in the artist’s life; a picture worth a thousand words and probably more.
  • The third story was about pranks, and how a good-natured prank can help build the bonds of community just as well as a meaningful conversation or a shared experience.
  • The fourth story was about a neighbor, an older man helping out a younger, less knowledgeable man with the vagaries of controlled burns; a cautionary tale that warned us to be wary when lighting fires because you might lose control and need to be saved.
  • Our fifth story took place in the past, or at least in a re-enacted past on the East coast where history can seem both richer and more cruel, a place where the history of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars is as every bit as relevant as it was in its own time.
  • The sixth story was about Three Rivers itself, and how important it is to come together and be neighbors, and tell stories and heal wounds. We learned through the storyteller’s eyes what it was like to grow up in Three Rivers, something the majority of us had never done.
  • The seventh story felt like something from a Murakami novel, a surreal look into the differences of people’s lives when viewed from the alleyways behind their homes. We saw the difference between neighbors in Tuscon, who are forced to remain sheltered in their air conditioned lives, and neighbors in Three Rivers, who can often be found strolling along sidewalks, enjoying the often moderate climate.
  • The eighth story told of a darker time in Detroit, when anger and heat came together to cause riots in the streets, fueled by racism and influential to a young man’s path to ministry.
  • Our ninth story related to days of youthful judgement, and how parental choices in where to live can often be confusing until later in life when we’ve seen more of the story and can find understanding.
  • The tenth story was one of loss, and how the absence of a parent can alter our lives and neighborhoods in incontrovertible ways. We saw in this story how even parents can be neighbors (particularly if they live in the apartment above your own).
  • The last and final story told of foreign neighborhoods, and how different neighbors are in Peru compared to neighbors in Three Rivers. We learned that sometimes it can take more than a freshly baked pie to crack the shell of American privacy.

We will soon tell more stories. Our next storytelling night will be on August 9, and our stories will revolve around the theme, “When I Grow Up.” Join us at 7:00 p.m., bring a dish to pass, and tell us what you want to be when you grow up. All answers are acceptable.

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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, 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, Event, Fundraising, Three Rivers

Spring Break 2013: Service and storytelling

Spring has come to Three Rivers (as indicated by the calendar, if not by the weather), and with spring came a group of students on their spring break! Last week, six students came from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, to spend a week with *culture is not optional through Calvin’s Service-Learning Center (which was just recognized for their good work!). As in past years, we followed a basic rule of life, which included a work period in the morning and community exploration in the afternoons, with an hour of silence before communal dinner. Throughout the week, we focused on the rhythm of work and rest, being active and being contemplative, contained within a particular place. Staying outside of town at the Hermitage and at St. Gregory’s Abbey provided a nice change of pace for all of us.

The group made great contributions at the Huss Project, putting their muscles to work by removing drop ceiling in the old kindergarten room, pulling up carpeting in two classrooms, prepping the community garden for planting, and hauling away metal for recycling. We also helped out a friend of *cino’s at his downtown building renovation.

Afternoons found us on field trips around the Three Rivers community, meeting local business owners, artists, farmers, journalists, historians, and church leaders. More informal conversations took place across the dinner table, in the car, and on the sidewalk. The stories that were shared this past week will continue to intrigue and inspire us, whether we heard them for the first or the fiftieth time. Here at *cino, we love storytelling, and when we listen well to the people around us, we all can learn just a little more about how to tell good, true stories.

For more photos of the week, visit our Spring Break 2013 – Calvin College photo set on Flickr.

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Event, People

Jubilee 2013

Every year since 2004, Kirstin and I have made an annual sojourn to the beautiful city of Pittsburgh in February for the Jubilee Conference, an extraordinary gathering of college students, professionals and others interested in fully living into a Kingdom vision for all areas of life.  In past years, we’ve had a display table in the conference hall and we’ve given workshops about home economics (in the Wendell Berry sense of the term).  But this year we’re going without any official responsibilities; instead, we’re very much looking forward to spending time with the fantastic group of people who gather at this event each year and have become good friends. If you’d like to connect, look for us at the massive Hearts & Minds Books “table” lovingly curated and staffed by some of our favorite booksellers in the world, Byron and Beth Borger.

Above is a photo of Bill Strickland, founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh, who spoke at Jubilee in 2009. Hearing Bill speak about his amazing life story and the incredible work he’s doing in Pittsburgh was one of many catalysts that led *culture is not optional to move forward with the Huss Project.

Though we have a long way to go, some seeds that were planted along the way have already begun to sprout. Connecting with the many good folks at Jubilee each year is one way we stay encouraged to keep tending to the work ahead. And for that, we are grateful … and excited to be headed to Pittsburgh!

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Building, Event, People

Family Fun Nights: Ceremonial Play

This summer, *cino has been hosting Family Fun Nights every Thursday from 5-7 pm at the Huss Project in Three Rivers, Michigan. Attendance was a bit sparse the first couple of weeks, but over the past month we’ve managed to attract a fairly consistent group of folks from the neighborhood for crafts, gardening, snacks, and sports. It’s been a great addition to our weekly schedule, and (I’ve found) a time to be re-energized by the Three Rivers community.

While lots of activities take place at these events, kickball is undoubtedly the favorite–for our guests and *cino staff, alike–whether playing or watching. I’m pretty terrible at it, but every week I look forward to running our homemade carpet bases on the crunchy grass behind Huss (especially when my team conquers!). I know, I know…it’s “just a game,” but it’s slowly becoming the place where I remember how to be a kid. I like to think it means something like that for the rest of the *cino folks, too.

Of course, remembrance is a funny thing these days. As many who are reading know, *cino recently made the difficult decision of canceling Practicing Resurrection due to a lack of registered guests. We’ve scratched our heads and asked the obvious questions–did it cost too much? did we advertise enough? are others as excited about this stuff as we are?–only to find ourselves empty and waiting for answers that aren’t coming. Over the past few weeks, silent waves of disappointment and frustration have occasionally reminded us of our story, our attempt and our lack of success. Perhaps the situation isn’t as traumatic as varied vocabulary makes it sound, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about this inevitable choice.

Even so, I’m equal parts reminded of *cino’s mission as an organization attempting to exhibit qualities of the coming Kingdom–ideally, a taste of what is “already, but not yet.” While part of me definitely and concretely laments our situation, the other asks: “how do we respond faithfully in this Christian community?” I don’t have all the answers, but I am hopeful that together we will continue (attempting) to foster an atmosphere of ridiculous joy because of our faith.

Indeed, the Hauerwasian ethic — “the faithfulness of doing nothing” — rings truer than ever in times like these. And while I am well aware that there is an apprehension to accept such “quietist” perspectives, particularly among those of us who desperately desire to make good culture, I still believe there is a place and time for such perspectives and reflection; perhaps, even, a place and time much like this…

¨In the wake of this story of “failure,” we’ve continued our Family Fun Nights (and lots of other events, too). Appropriately, we’ve had a lot of fun at them. We’ve made new friends and walked through misters. We’ve sat in the shade and chatted in the garden. We’ve drank from the hose and completed puzzles with missing pieces. Again, we’ve smiled, and it’s been great.
Thus, weekly we return to kickball liturgy: the joy of a game for it’s own sake, a score that never get’s counted, and a time that asks to be wasted on something as precious as childhood. Together we stand in the sun, watch in the shade, and (sometimes) feel the breeze: a whispered reminder that another story–a story of hope–continues to unfold in our midst, even in the hot heat of this extraordinary summer.

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Event, People

Summer storytelling and potluck

Join us at the Huss Project this Friday, August 10, for our third storytelling night of the summer. We’ll start with a potluck at 7:00 and then start telling stories at 8:00.

Our theme for the stories is Ordinary Radicals. Join us as we share stories of our heroes — not the heroes we see on TV, but the ones we meet on the street. Stories of the people who taught us and inspired us to be better neighbors, mothers, gardeners, and citizens. If you would like to tell a story, we ask that it be 3-7 minutes in length; however if you would just like to come and listen, you are welcome to do that as well.

Bring a dish and a story to share … all are welcome!

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Event, People

Practicing Resurrection 2012 cancelled

After much conversation with our *cino staff and board members, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Practicing Resurrection conference. We’re generally not very good at failing to follow through on things we’ve said we’d do and we were all really excited about having so many wonderful people all in the same place for a weekend this summer, so we’re making this announcement with exceptionally heavy hearts.
However, exceptionally low registration and a number of other sign posts have pointed us in this regrettable direction. We considered going ahead with things anyway, given the wonderful presenters and the registrants on our list already — just have a big party! But realistically, *cino cannot afford to subsidize the gathering, and we also didn’t want to dishonor what our presenters were bringing to the table by having sparse attendance and not being able to facilitate the kind of conversation we were hoping to have during the conference.
Our hope is that we can regroup and reorganize for another event sometime in the future. Thank you for your understanding.
With regret,
The *culture is not optional staff

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