*cino Work, Education, Workshops

A writerly weekend at Earlham School of Religion

A couple of years ago, Rob and I connected with Ben Brazil at the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing. We were at the festival exhibit hall displaying for *cino and he was there displaying for the Earlham School of Religion’s Ministry of Writing program.

You never know how such encounters are going to bear fruit in the future, and this past weekend, we were delighted to participate in the Earlham Writing Colloquium. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet new kindred spirits, share about *cino and Topology Magazine, hear some wonderful words.  On Friday, we collaborated with poet Dave Harrity on a pre-conference for undergraduate students from Earlham College, and then on Saturday, we did a workshop on “Writing from your Watershed,” as well as a 20-minute talk on understanding our relationship with our places in terms of the covenantal relationship of marriage.

We entered the experience quite exhausted from a too-long busy season, and left refreshed, inspired and grateful because of all of the amazing people we met. What more could we have asked for? Thank you to Ben and Mandy for the organizational work, and to the other speakers and participants for the great conversations and storytelling.  We wish you all so much joy as you return to your places and continue to imagine how your writing can cultivate your inner life and the life of the world.

Thank you to Anne M. Hutchinson for taking the above photo during our panel presentation!

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Education, Organization, Workshops

*cino at Rooted & Grounded

During the first weekend in October, a collection of scholars, practitioners and scholar-practitioners gathered at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana. For the second year running, AMBS played host to the Rooted and Grounded Conference, which is an ongoing conversation about the relationship between a commitment to place and the Christian faith, with a decidedly agrarian spin.

Rob and I were honored to be among the presenters for the gathering, which included many whose work in places throughout North America we deeply admire. Our topic was an exploration of the ways our commitment to our places is akin to marriage, weaving together biblical foundations, narrative examples and images of both faithfulness and faithlessness.

A highlight of the weekend was our visit to the Merry Lea Environmental Center, where our friend Jon has been working for a number of years. As an extension of Goshen College, Merry Lea serves as a site for ecological education and experimentation.  Touring their platinum LEED-certified buildings, market garden and woody perennial polyculture plot was greatly inspiring for our ongoing work at the Huss Project.  It was a multi-sensory experience that reinforced the many profound ideas we take with us from the weekend, including Ched Myers’ call to watershed discipleship and Sylvia Keesmaat’s reminder that each loss of creation is a lost opportunity to know the fullness of the Creator.

Photo from workshop attendee Hillary W.

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Building, Event, Workshops

*cino hosts 9 from Calvin for spring break

Our group
Our *cino spring break trip that was born last year with a small group of five Calvin College students grew to nine this year, plus our two resident volunteers, Stephanie and Emily. We really enjoyed getting to know the students who participated and getting to know our work and community better through their participation. Here’s a day-by-day synopsis to give you a glimpse of what we experienced together, in addition to our collection of photos
The students arrived in downtown Three Rivers after the 80-mile trip from Grand Rapids. We got to know each other a bit better (namely: spirit animals…whatever that means!) over tea and coffee at World Fare. Rob and I also gave an overview of the geography and character of Three Rivers before we split up to spend the night at the rectory and our apartment above World Fare.
After breakfast at our apartment, we headed over to tour Huss School and learn more about the work we’d be doing during the week–both the immediate tasks and how they fit into the long term vision for the school. Next, we toured the historic Silliman House and got a Three Rivers history lesson from DAR member and fountain of local history knowledge, Becky Shank. Over a delicious homemade pizza lunch at the rectory, we planned our meals for the week and made our grocery list of items that we then procured from local farmers, an Amish grocery store and, lastly, one of the local big boxes. We arrived at The Hermitage Community, our home for six nights, and were greeted with a dinner of chili and cornbread prepared by David and Naomi Wenger. The Wengers, who are co-directors of The Hermitage, led us in discussion over dinner about the qualities and purposes of a rule of life, as well as how to approach our daily period of silence during the week.
The group dispersed on Sunday morning for Eucharist at St. Gregory’s Abbey, worship at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite and quiet time at The Hermitage. We reconvened for a lunch of various incredible soups and breads shared with Tim Raakman, a friend and *cino board member, and some of his weekend guests. Sunday afternoon was spent conversing, napping and reading and, once we were finally hungry again, we closed the day with a Middle Eastern meal.
Our first weekday began with breakfast and morning prayer at The Hermitage, led by the Wengers. After prayer, we packed up our lunch and headed to work at Huss School until 12:30. Our activities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the school included raking, removing drop ceiling tiles and framing, re-mulching around the community garden, creating some new flower beds and paths, removing flooring and doing some general clean-up around the building. In the afternoon, we visited two farming families who live within walking distance of each other just northwest of Three Rivers. An unexpected adventure was chasing and catching the laying hens who escaped from their pen. We observed an hour of silence when we returned to The Hermitage, followed by a dinner of deliciously fresh burritos.
Tuesday was similar in structure to Monday, but a few of us spent the morning at World Fare cleaning and entering data for new inventory. Our afternoon explorations included visiting three local businesses (Lowry’s Books, Love Your Mother and the Riviera Theatre) and meeting with Brenda McGowan about race and education in Three Rivers. Our hour of silence was followed by a meal of fresh bread and a roasted eggplant soup topped with yogurt, cilantro and sweet peppers.
On Wednesday morning, we were back at the school after morning prayers and the weekly Eucharist at The Hermitage. It was a cold, rainy day, but we did manage to get some outdoor work done, including tackling the brush pile out back. In the afternoon, we talked with Pastor Bennett at New Jerusalem Baptist Church about the qualities of the neighborhood surrounding his church and Huss School. We also met with Bruce Snook of River Country Journal in the Michigan room at the Three Rivers library. Dinner was a delicious red lentil curry over rice, topped with yogurt and cilantro.
After morning prayer on Thursday, we headed to the rectory where our resident community lives to do a different sort of work for the school: making items to sell in our Culture Make Sale fundraiser in July. We made soap (oatmeal almond and lemon lavender), garlands and stationery sets. In the afternoon, we continued our arts theme by visiting the wetland property of a local artist couple (founders of the Three Rivers Artist Guild), checking out the Carnegie Center for the Arts, and watching a film at the Riviera. We broke our rule a bit on Thursday to accommodate the Riviera’s “rule,” and headed back to The Hermitage later to enjoy a dinner of cabbage and noodles with freshly baked rolls and apple sauce–wonderful comfort food during a week that just got colder and colder!
Friday was our day to clean up at The Hermitage and move over to St. Gregory’s Abbey. After morning prayer, we scrubbed the barn from top to bottom and also spent some time serving the retreat center in some other ways: picking up the debris from February’s ice storm, raking gravel back into the parking lot and pulling nails from old barn boards that will be recycled as picture frames. A rest time after a leisurely lunch refreshed us to finish our tasks and visit the quirky Long Lake Food and Book Shop before heading to the Abbey in time for afternoon tea. Vespers and meditation at 5:00 pm was our first glimpse of the monks’ practice of chanting the Psalms and we continued our quiet time until 6:00, as we’d done most of the week. Dinner was a stir fried amalgamation of leftover vegetables, tofu and egg in a sauce of cilantro, coconut milk, tomatoes, tamari and garlic. Because of the Feast of the Annunciation, there was no compline on Friday, but there was a baking extravaganza in the St. Denys kitchen: chocolate cake, apple crisp and raisin bread.
Several participants got up for 4:00 am prayers, but only one faithful soul made it to 6:00 am. We were all up and out of the house by 8:15 am, however, for the daily Eucharist service. Afterward, most of us hopped in the van and headed out to the small country crossroads of Volinia for the annual maple festival, including an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. During a ride on the horse drawn wagon, we got to hear one of the students talk about his experiences helping run the maple project at the alternative school. Back at the monastery, we continued participating in the day’s prayers and writing thank you notes to those we’d visited during the week. Br. Abraham visited with us in the afternoon to talk about the Benedictine vow of stability and tell a bit of his story. Afterward, we piled all of ourselves and our stuff into the van for our last stop together: dinner at the home of our friends JD and Barb. Taking into account our vegetarians and lactose intolerant eaters, Barb created a phenomenal Middle Eastern feast with an astounding array of fresh vegetables, cheeses, dips, pastries, tarts and more. The meal, topped off by vegan chocolate cake with chocolate almond ganache and toasted coconut, was excellent and a great way to celebrate our time together.
Throughout the week, we had wonderful conversations about topics big and small, as we practiced accepting each other wherever we were in our lives and also sought to grow in our understanding of what it means to be human in this world, embedded in particular vocations and places. We spent lots of time laughing, eating, reflecting, praying, reading, working, creating and listening. And we even spent some time cutting hair.

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Event, Workshops

Jubilee 2010

We’re getting ready for our annual trip to Pittsburgh for CCO’s Jubilee Conference, a gathering of several thousand college students eager to explore how to weave faith commitments into everyday life. This year, we’ll have our usual table in the exhibit area with all kinds of information about *cino projects: catapult magazine and road journal; Imagining Space and Practicing Resurrection.
Kirstin and Rob will also be leading a workshop called “Movin’ On Out”:

It’s important to consider what Christian faithfulness might look like in our unique careers as members of the body of Christ. But what about faithfulness in the practical aspects of the transition from living at school or with our parents to living on our own? This workshop will explore what it means to live into the Kingdom creatively as we choose where to live, establish food habits, cultivate a household and more.

So, if you’ll be at the conference, be sure to check out our table in the exhibit hall and, if you’re interested, attend our workshop! We’d love meeting new folks and engaging in great conversation.

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Event, Workshops

*cino teams up for Eat Well Food Tour

Out of a conversation about collaboration last fall with folks from the Christian Reformed Office of Social Justice, a tour was born–the Eat Well Food Tour, to be exact.
Basically, throughout the summer of 2009, Rob and I will visit churches, farms, farmer’s markets and other locations throughout the midwestern U.S. and Canada exploring food and faith issues. We’ll conduct interviews, assist in networking around food justice and conduct workshops on food and storytelling. The workshop will explore how our food choices can represent faithful improvisation on the themes of the Christian story, including justice, abundance, love, hospitality, creativity, stewardship and more.
Check out the tour web site for more details, including a tour blog where we’ll chronicle the people, places and ideas we’ll encounter along the way. And watch for a stop near you!

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Workshop: Rock and roll (and race)

Rob and Kirstin led a workshop this morning titled “Rock and roll and race” at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The workshop looked at the history of rock and roll, focusing specifically on movements and moments in which race played a significant role in shaping music culture–with particular attention given to significant African-American artists.
While certainly still a work in progress, you can check out our workshop resource page to get an idea of what we talked about or to continue the conversation.

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