I just left a three day Communities Conference in Louisa, Virginia, put on by Twin Oaks, a rural, egalitarian community founded in 1967, one of the oldest of its kind. The annual conference focuses on some aspect of communal living and provides an opportunity for “intentional communities” to network and advertise for new members, if desired. As we met each other at the conference we would ask one another “Do you live in a Community?” or “Which Community are you from?” That everyone lives in some kind of community was understood. What we wanted to know was whether or not our new acquaintance was a member of an intentional community.
So what is an intentional community, and how is it distinct from the larger society in which it exists?
On their website ic.org the Fellowship of Intentional Communities has this to say about them:
“Intentional communities are groups of people living together with some shared resources on the basis of explicit common values. Examples include ecovillages, cohousing, communes, student co-ops, spiritual communities, and more.”
Twin Oaks and some other intentional communities are egalitarian, meaning that their members share their income and all are required to live by the same standard. As such, it is a commune and it’s members eschew capitalism for various reasons. Eco villages and co-housing projects may or may not have such values. They may simply desire to share meals and household appliances and tools, or they may help one another with childcare, elder care, or the care of the disabled. Their bonds may be founded on religious and/or spiritual beliefs, or they may have no such affiliation. Some are rural and grow much of their own food while others are urban. Some have businesses run by its members which tends to make for a more intensive community.
Intentional communities are not unlike extended families or tribes, with the difference being that its adult members have consciously chosen to join them and they take part in deciding what is important to them as a group. Some are spearheaded by one dynamic leader while others are strictly democratic. They take considerable planning and organizing and, as in any group, some enjoy this work while others do not.
As I see it, we are all members of various intentional communities simultaneously. We are members of the city or town in which we reside, we may be members of a religious and/or spiritual community, we may choose to join a social or civic club of some kind or a school, and we are often part of a business which serves as a micro community. Some have family members living nearby, while others do not. Some are very social while others minimize their involvement with others.
The difference between this sort of community member and the intentional communard is one of consciousness and the degree of involvement. My membership in any community can become more intentional if I simply decide to become more involved in its mission and its inner workings. Most communities, but not all, welcome such involvement. As a citizen of the United States I can participate in its governance and I have the freedom to pick and choose any and all of my communities.
My childhood friend Diane from Los Gatos, California is an example of someone who lives in her chosen community with intention. She moved to North Carolina over twenty years ago and has been involved in various communities ever since. She taught the fifth grade in a Christian school for nearly twenty years, as well as Latin. Her extended family members have followed her to North Carolina and she now has two brothers, a sister-in-law,
her father, daughter and son-in-law, nieces and nephew all within a ten mile radius. She has become a member of a Christian, non-profit organization called Corral
that “pairs rescued horses with girls in high-risk situations to provide healing and transformational life change.” Being a life-long horse person herself, Diane has been drawn to this movement naturally. She and many others donates their time joyously just to be around the horses and to facilitate such a worthwhile cause.
They recently organized the sale of hundreds of horse items for a fund-raising sale.
Diane goes to the Corral every chance she gets to join in whatever needs doing at the time. She and countless other volunteers are making a difference through conscious community involvement. They, along with the at-risk girls, and the horses, are thriving, together.
Circumstances beyond my control have brought me to Washington D.C. where I am staying in yet another International Hostel. I wasn’t planning on coming here, but I’m glad I did. It’s 8:30 a.m. and I hear many loud voices outside my dorm room. I’m wondering if it could be a demonstration about DACA or something like that. This is my first time in my nation’s capitol and I’m eager to see it. The hostel is close to the White House and all of the many monuments. I met an organizer and advocate for Veterans at a restaurant last night. Interesting!
More on what I see and learn here later. ♥️