People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

What to expect: Chelsea’s reflection

I made the decision to go to Three Rivers in an end-of-semester panic, and entered the town in a post-grad daze. Interning with *cino had been in the back (and occasionally in the front) of my head since spring of 2012, when I visited the organization through Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center. However, living a half hour from my hometown was far less exhilarating than the traveler’s life I’d long dreamed of for myself.

With the end of school approaching, I scrambled for an answer to the question we anxious, indecisive students hate most. (Though this question persists throughout one’s college career, for me, it wasn’t until senior year that I actually let it tangle up with my romantic thoughts regarding the future.)

Dialogue that included said question went as follows:

Relatives I rarely see, acquaintance-classmates, dental hygienists, etc.: “So, what are your plans after graduation?”  


Chelsea’s Mouth: “Yeah. Um. Yeah. I’m not really sure yet. I’ve thought a lot about teaching abroad, so that’s a possibility. Eventually grad school. I’d kind of like to lie low for a while, though, so we’ll see.”



In the end, *cino was a solid response — something to halt the caps lock in my head, if you will. Three Rivers seemed like a good place to pause and breathe while continuing to learn and be useful. It was a new orbit, which I needed, but one containing familiar values and concerns. The welcoming tone that each of *cino’s emails contained didn’t hurt either. When preparing to leap, it’s nice to know there are friendly arms on the other side… friendly and willing to help carry your excessive amounts of clothes and books on move-in day.

As these things tend to go, when I first arrived in Three Rivers, expectations were quickly shaken and made to adjust. Those expectations remained unmet, but that’s because they also remain oblivious to the needs of a fledging nonprofit and to a town experiencing various forms of injustice. During the readjustment, Ainsley (good pal, fellow intern, fellow Trinity Episcopal basement dweller, zooby zooby) and I decided to be “yes” people, because that’s all we could do in a semi-foreign place — feel around for gaps to fill and hope our efforts helped. Consequently, my role with *cino involved a little of this and a little of that. I did primarily communications work, making promotional videos and writing blog posts, but I was also able to interact with the community in some unexpected ways. As much as I enjoy piecing together footage or interviewing adult members of the community, an afternoon of reading Holes and talking technology with a soon-to-be-eleven-year-old will always stand a little brighter in my memory than any field-related task. (His life advice, by the way: “Put away the electronics.”)

I’ve heard some great visions for the future of *cino and for Huss School, and hearts of staff members and volunteers are aching to move and love in radical ways, but it’s not always easy to stay positive while maintaining an organization. It’s a stressful gig, and it takes moments like this, simple, yet profound, to keep us calm and steady. My hope for *cino is that they continue to listen to their neighbors, no matter how small, and to care for their wounds. As a result of this attentiveness, I hope that current expectations are thwarted in beautiful ways, just as mine were, to reveal a space impossible to imagine.

After a memorable summer, I’m now back in Grand Rapids, working in a couple cafes and considering my next move. Teaching abroad is still on the table, but if I’ve learned anything in the last few months, it’s that these strange transitional days matter, and that you can’t go wrong when you pay attention to those around you and invest your energy in the present.

Thank you, *cino & company, for supporting me this summer, for expanding my understanding of hospitality, and for giving the people of Three Rivers a safe place to learn, play and create.

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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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Building, Fundraising, Organization, Three Rivers

The Huss Project wins $1,000 grant

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

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*cino Work, 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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Building, Three Rivers

We’ve reached our first goal! Halfway there …

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

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

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

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Organization, People, Three Rivers

Introducing our 2013 summer interns!

(Left to right: Chelsea Tanis, Ginna Quesada, Ainsley Rynders, Jonathan Huang)

This past weekend, we officially welcomed our 2013 summer interns to Three Rivers.  This will be the fourth summer that we’ve had a group of interns join our year-round resident community to help support *cino’s work during our busy season.  That said, we welcome these new friends not just to share in the work load, but to offer a fresh perspective, join in hospitality and engage in mutual learning.

Our series of orientation activities began on Friday and continued through the weekend, including a bike tour and overview of Three Rivers, a welcome dinner and conversations around *cino’s history and core values.  Last night, the group gathered for a house meeting with the residents of the rectory to begin exploring the logistical details of living in intentional community.  We’re also in the process of assigning specific tasks for the summer, which is always a welcome challenge — we want to honor each person’s gifts, while also pitching in as a community to share in the nitty-gritty tasks.

This summer, we’ll be hosting weekly Family Fun Nights, lunches four days a week, a community garden, three storytelling nights, two Underground Supper Clubs and one big annual Future Festival — all on top of our usual publishing and community development work!  It will be a busy few months, but we look forward to working hard side by side, and then playing hard side by side to rejuvenate ourselves and weave a resilient, joyful community.

Thank you, Chelsea, Ainsley, Jonathan and Ginna, for giving yourself so generously to this place for a season!

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Hospitality, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Homemade hospitality with Trinity Episcopal Church

On Sunday, April 28, members of the *cino community enjoyed sharing coffee, tea, juice and homemade cinnamon rolls between and after worship services with members of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Since the summer of 2010, *cino has been renting Trinity’s rectory to house an intentional community, which includes volunteer staff and summer interns.  The church has also graciously allowed us to use their basement for the times extra space is needed, including summer and various student groups who come to Three Rivers for service-learning, retreat, leadership training and just-plain-visiting.  Last year, Trinity applied for a grant to renovate the bathrooms in the basement and put in a shower, which has been wonderfully helpful for all of the hosting our group does.

Trinity will celebrate its 150th anniversary this coming September and we were excited to hear during coffee hour about some of the creative plans that are taking shape for that event.  True to their long legacy of outreach and hospitality, Trinity has not only rented space to the *cino gang, but they’ve also contributed in terms of furniture, housewares, encouragement, financial contributions and, simply, friendship.  (We greatly miss our Trinity friend Jeanette and her kind pup Larry — they appear around :33 in this video — who lived across the street from Huss until Jeanette passed away last year.)  In addition to all of this generosity, Trinity has also agreed to host a Noisy Offering next Sunday to continue their support of the Huss Project Brick Campaign.  Thank you, Trinity friends, for all you do to live out your congregational mission to be “God’s love in action” in Three Rivers and beyond!

Bring your loose change and join us at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 5 for a Noisy Offering (coins in baking pans, although bills and checks are welcome, too!).  Special offerings will take place at both the 8:00 a.m. (spoken liturgy) and 10:00 a.m. (sung liturgy) worship services.  Trinity is located at 321 N. Main Street in Three Rivers.

Check out photos of *cino goings-on at Trinity:

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Building, Fundraising, Three Rivers

Double your Huss Project brick donation!

(Cross-posted from the Huss Project web site.)

Yes, you read that correctly: right now, you can double your donation dollars to the Huss Project!  We are thrilled to announce that an anonymous donor has offered to match donations between now and May 15 up to $4,500.  If we reach our goal, that’s a whopping $9,000 toward our ambitious Brick Campaign goal!

If your employer also matches gifts, your gift will be matched twice! If you have already made a gift to the Huss Project, we thank-thank-thank you and hope you will please consider an additional gift to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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Publishing, Three Rivers

Lament and hope in Three Rivers and beyond

On Holy Saturday, many of us from the *cino community in Three Rivers joined in a service of lament and hope organized by The Hermitage Community, a Mennonite retreat center located just west of Three Rivers.  The service was prompted by the evolving news over the past several months that Enbridge, the Canadian energy transport company that was responsible for a nearby oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010, is going to be adding a third larger pipeline for crude oil to its existing right of way.  The portion of their line that extends from the Canadian border to a refinery in northwest Indiana cuts through the center of Hermitage property, as well as the adjacent GilChrist Retreat Center and St. Gregory’s Abbey.

We are grateful for the leadership of the Hermitage in choosing the way of honest lament and grief over the way of legal battles and enmity.  While it was encouraging to spend time with a community that hopes for a better future, it was also humbling to walk the very land that will be torn apart in the coming months and confess our role in the violence.  Coming out of the service, we decided to do two special catapult issues in an effort to honor this gratitude and further explore the many complex issues raised by our complicity in the destruction of creation through our consumption of crude oil.  The first issue will contain some of the written and visual elements from the recent service of lament and hope.  The second issue will poke at our assumptions about progress as forward motion.  See the catapult writer’s block for full issue descriptions.

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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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