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!

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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.

Read More →

Hospitality, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

just give the biker a vegan sandwich.

My first blog post.
This is Johnathan- I’ve been here in Three Rivers since May 31st, and days here are beginning to feel familiar and rhythmic. It has taken some time to reach that point, partly because we interns have all moved here at different times, but also because projects take time to develop. The vision of a task and of the collective has to come into focus before a path can be set. So, I am getting comfortable. That feels nice.
One interesting event that seemed to mark the start of my establishment here happened just last week. Paul already mentioned the four cyclists barreling through St. Joseph county, stumbling across us in hopes to find a space to sleep. Well, not only were these four women fun to be around and adventurous as all get-out (cycling from D.C.? oook.), they were a beautiful reminder of how enriching being spontaneously open can be. Having just moved from a community in Grand Rapids where strangers couch-surfed often and the door was always unlocked, I had grown accustomed to a quick (and random) hospitality. Being able to function as a community, responding to immediate opportunities at the drop of a hat, was something I was good at and really enjoyed.
So, it meant a lot to me last week when Paul, Jared, and I were able to function together in offering what we had to these travelers. It christened the house in a way. It proved we could pull together vegan meals, clean towels, and pillows for random people with no notice.
I have confidence in us now. I’m here now.

Read More →

Three Rivers, Video

Video: Moving in

We shot the footage for this video over a month ago now, but I finally got around to editing it this morning. On May 27, with the help of board member Tim Raakman and his moving truck, we moved three of our interns down from Grand Rapids to their new home in Three Rivers (the Rectory of Trinity Episcopal Church). Enjoy!

Read More →

*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.

Read More →