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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Building, Fundraising, Three Rivers

Love the Huss Project: Give 5 minutes for $5,000!

Music, play, art, food, gardening, community fellowship, storytelling, kickball: what’s NOT to love about the Huss Project?  You can love us back right now by taking just 5 minutes to …

  1. Watch the cool 3-minute video we put together featuring Huss Project footage and the song “This House” by kindlewood (above).
  2. Vote to help us win $5,000 in a contest sponsored by the Fetzer Institute.
  3. Share this with everyone you know via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. (just click one of the icons below this post)!

This contest is part of a grant we applied for through the Fetzer Institute.  Friends of the Huss Project can vote for us to win $5,000 and a separate panel is making a selection for a grand prize of $25,000.  That could go a long way toward things like, I don’t know, running water, don’t you think?  The Huss Project has housed so much goodness already without basic infrastructure — just imagine what we can do when we’re up and running year round!  In addition to voting, you can support the Huss Project by buying a brick.

Thank you so much for your consideration and support … and keep up your own good work!

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Organization, People, Three Rivers

Beginning the conversation

Welcome to the *cino Talks blog! I’m Stephanie, one of several residents of the *cino community who live and work in Three Rivers, Michigan.

It feels quite remarkable to remember that just over a year ago, a group of college friends relocated from Grand Rapids to this rural small town in southwest Michigan and into the generously shared space of Trinity Episcopal Church’s rectory. Although many friends from this initial gathering have since embarked upon other endeavors, ongoing conversations have encouraged other college students and postgraduates to spend some time here in Three Rivers as well. I often recall the particular conversation that kindled this decision to join friends here in Three Rivers; a memory that includes the question, “What if a group of friends decided to move to Three Rivers this summer?”

It was springtime, and a pleasant enough day to perch piles of books on a courtyard table to peruse the themes of hospitality, imaginative living, and a faithful commitment to place. Yes, it was none other than Rob and Kirstin, leafing through pages and planning their first spring break trip — a foray into “art, agriculture, and development in rural communities.” Now, when you bump into such delightful friends and catch sight of the well-worn texts written by Cornel West, Wendell Berry, Brian Walsh, Kathleen Norris and the like, all collected together into an epitome of all that your college courses could explore, you get a little curious. And maybe a bit excited.

Rob and Kirstin went on to describe the spring break trip as both ethnographic and participatory, where students would traverse the rural small-town landscape of Three Rivers and visit local organic farms, learn from community members including artists, activists, historians, writers, and business owners, prepare shared meals with locally-sourced food, do service work at *cino’s Huss School building, and live and learn at the Hermitage, a serene Mennonite retreat center located in the hills west of town. This trip would encourage students to envision a community that is informed by a Christian “rule of life,” but also one that is learning-based, service-oriented, imaginative, and committed to the local culture and identity of Three Rivers and the other places we call home. As a student who was preparing to finish college with various opportunities pulling me in several directions, I was quite intrigued by this alternative vision for community. It was this very conversation, and many to come, that seemed to incite a small and ongoing migration of friends to Three Rivers.

Now why am I focusing so fixedly on such a memory? This memory reflection has recently served to unearth a period of questioning, the most pressing of which is the question of why I still believe in the work and identity of *culture is not optional. When I consider all that this past year has encompassed, I can undoubtedly say that it has indeed been a period of practicing hospitality, of striving to commit to this place, and of allowing our imaginations to shape the work that we do together. Sure, I cannot altogether affirm that our presence here has been characterized by an unceasing creative momentum and a clearly defined vision, nor did I ever expect for it to be so. But those initial conversations about how we are to live whole lives in this community still persist, allowing space to ask questions and work through the wobbles and gaps in my own understanding of *cino’s presence in Three Rivers and beyond.

As Kirstin introduced in the opening blog post for the *cino Talks, *culture is not optional, as an organization and gathering of friends, is transitioning into a period when we give greater attention to the mission and vision of this organization. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve most likely participated in some small or large part in *culture is not optional, whether it be living and working in Three Rivers, reading and writing for <a href=””><em>catapult magazine</em></a>, visiting <a href=””>Huss School</a>, or all the many other ways you’ve chosen to support this community. The *cino Talks is a dialogue where we hope to include your thoughts and observations regarding *culture is not optional’s organizational identity.

So, in a roundabout way, we’re asking if you can join us in reflecting on two questions for this initial phase:

  • Why is *culture is not optional important to you?
  • What limits your support of *culture is not optional?

These questions are broad, but your thoughtful and honest reflection is very valuable for *cino as we seek to move forward into a clearer identity and vision in the upcoming months. Answers can be <a href=””>submitted here </a> or via the comment section below.

So, again welcome to the *cino Talks blog. We hope that it can become a space where you can also reflect on the ways that *culture is not optional has become important to you and participate in the ongoing conversations about faith, community, culture, place and so much more.

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Three Rivers, Town History

For Life Is Interwoven

I like to live in a little town

Where the trees meet over the street

You wave your hand and say “Hello!”

To every person you meet

I like to stop for a minute outside of a grocery store

And hear the kindly gossip of the folks moving in next door.

For life is interwoven with friends you learn to know,

And you feel their joys and sorrows as they daily come and go.

So I’m glad to live in a little town 

And care no more to roam

For every house in a little town

Is more than a house- it’s a home!

-Al White

Mayor of Three Rivers, 1836
So, I found this at this poem while I was doing research at the public library here in Three Rivers. I have been trying to imagine what life would have been like for the first citizens of this town. I imagine them hitching their buggies to posts along the storefronts of Main Streets, and part of me wishes I was living in the Three Rivers of the 1830’s. Back when industry was booming (with water power provided by the coursing St. Joseph River), people dreamed big. The “founding fathers” of this community did so many (inconvenient) things to help the town thrive. As we would say today, these characters “went out of their way” to make this “little town” a precious place.
Thinking about citizenship and responsibility to one’s community, and I am often discouraged by the singular manner in which I operate. For example, I am currently trying to discern what I should do for a living this coming year and it is so tempting to simply choose the most economically advantageous (safe) option. My “way” or “course” includes being responsible for one person: me.
I slump in my chair and think gloomily, “What could anyone ask of me? I am a kid (I graduated in June). Due to the education loans I acquired, Calvin College basically owns me. I have no experience, few practical skills, and little but my personality to recommend me (which doesn’t count for much).”
I talk a lot about the responsibility I bear with my privilege, but, right now it seems like I can choose to recognize or ignore that responsibility. It seems that so many of the major social problems in this country are the result of a singular culture – a society that rejects mutual dependency and prizes, above all else, independence.
“Was life really so grand back when Old Al White was Mayor?” the historian within me prompts. Sure, up in First Ward (where the bankers and business-owners resided) kids probably road their bikes to the swimming hole, while their mother’s sat on the porches worry-free. But, what was life like for the factory workers and their families? What was it like for the first farmers, overwhelmed by the unknown embodied by the vast forests that surrounded them? The men and women credited with founding this town were of a select sort. Although we can read of their generosity and resourcefulness, we can be sure that they also existed in the midst of poverty and social strife. While I may think nostalgically about the way this town once was, I must accept my current environment and choose to embrace my role in it. It is now that the habit of “going out of my way” can be developed.

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Hospitality, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Watermelon, sunshine & no shoes allowed!

About a month ago I moved my (not-so-few) possessions from Grand Rapids to Three Rivers. That night, as my fellow interns and I situated ourselves in our rooms, the house felt big, empty and foreign. Having just left a cocoon-like college community, I felt anxious giving up my warm coverlet of intimate friendships. Now that I am settled in Three Rivers (after being in Texas for a few weeks), I don’t feel nearly as nervous. This probably has a lot to do with this last 4th of July weekend.
“Watermelon, sunshine, and no shoes allowed!” Johnny, (another intern) exclaimed when, over a month ago, we first discussed inviting our friends down for the 4th to show them Three Rivers. “It will be a porch-swinging, root beer*-slurping, grand old time.” The prospect of sharing the simple pleasures of this place with my friends excited me. Mixing these worlds intentionally would be a momentous occasion.
We were fairly open with our invitations and told people to bring friends. We expected most of the pals we invited to already have plans. As the weekend quickly approached, we were still uncertain of how many would arrive. We never expected to see all of the nineteen familiar faces, which passed through our doors over the weekend. Thursday, our first guests came for with our weekly CINO house dinner. Folks just kept coming. People dropped their family get-togethers, and they delayed their vacations. There seemed to be a general acknowledgement of the significance of our gathering. And so, Rebecca, Stephanie, Greg, Ryan, Heidi, Heather, Kevin, Jen, Ben, Mitchell, Karie, Nathaniel, Kristen, Mag, Kirsten, Matt, Tiffany, Lydia, and Megan came in packs of four or five to celebrate the many connections which have developed amongst us over the last four years.
Despite our numbers our time together was rich, and even tranquil. On the porch, Kevin broke the soft silence of a circle of avid readers with humorously grotesque excerpts from Arabian Nights (his audience grumbled and chuckled concurrently). Kirsten and Kristen, dusted in pastel, drew eclectic designs on the sidewalk with chalk. At the dining room table a group of (short-term) soccer-enthusiasts watched the World-Cup, munched melon and chattered loudly about the game. In the kitchen, Jen matched their ruckus storming around the kitchen, commanding people to peel this or chop. Greg on the other hand, exuding calm, cleaned the cutting boards before the knives were put down. So, basically we didn’t do anything. People were content just being together.
Then on Sunday we went to Pleasant Lake. Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma’s Grandparents graciously invited us interns to bring our friends out to their cottage to swim. When we (with apprehension) showed up with a small army, they didn’t even flinch. They were so welcoming and it was a beautiful day! As dusk approached, I sat out on the raft in the water and gazed at the sky over the water. Sunlight and water. I realized then that friendship is not so much like a protective shell, or a warm cocoon. Water, the substance that I can dive into in the summer and which covers me like a blanket in the fall, is constantly taking new forms. So also will my friendships take on new forms.

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