Why I am visiting The Simple Way community in Philadelphia

I am writing this partly because I love to share about Shane Claiborne and the community he and friends started called The Simple Way.  I also have booked a stay at the Hospitality House which is a hostel like situation where people who want to visit The Simple Way can stay.  I have been asked by one of the community members how I heard about the Simple Way and why I want to come.  So here is the answer to that question.

I first read the book “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne about eight years ago when I was in a very discouraged place emotionally and spiritually. Four years before I had surrendered my life to Jesus because I met people who really seemed to walk their talk, and they encouraged me to read books like “More Than a Carpenter” and “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel which helped me intellectually grasp the validity of the Christian faith.

But when conflicts broke out in our fellowship and were not dealt with in what I thought was a Christ-like way, I became disillusioned with Christians once again.  (Being disappointed in Christians was why I left the faith at age 16 and did not return until I was about 47).  I was searching for some reassurance.  I found “The Irresistible Revolution” and I felt inspired and reassured that following Jesus like Shane followed Jesus was what I wanted to do.

What really inspired me about Shane was that he was willing to break out of the mold of going to Bible college and learning all the theology about Christianity–and take the risk of living out his faith by eventually, with friends, starting a community in the worst neighborhood in Philadelphia.  He and his friends wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their own neighborhood reaching out to the kinds of people Jesus wants us to connect with–poor, hurting, and neglected.

I learned extensively about what Shane and friends were up to by reading just about every word on The Simple Way website, plus watching and listening to a three part dvd/cd series which covered the three topics near and dear to my heart:  Peace, Creation Care, and helping the poor.  What I experienced made my heart sing!  These mostly young people were doing such creative, fun, extravagant, joyful things in their neighborhood and in the world.

I was very happy that intentional community was the cornerstone of what Shane was about because I believe that if we don’t live together with other Christians, it is harder to be a real witness to people in our neighborhood, and hard to have time and energy to serve.  I live with my former husband and my daughter, and my other former husband and my son live fifteen minutes away. We consider ourselves community and we see the power of working together and sharing resources so that we can be more service oriented as well as disciple each other.  I  yearn for more people to join us-and that is why we are establishing ourselves as a community that you read about in this blog.

A few months ago my 24 year old son, Chris, asked me if I had Shane’s book because he had read that Shane was one of the top most influential and inspiring Christians according to a poll taken by Relevant Magazine.  Chris was doing his research and learning about these people, and I was delighted about that.  I found the book and Chris really enjoyed reading it as well as listening to the CD’s I had bought before.  He also bought an extra copy and gave it to his good friend who does not think much of Christianity because of so much hypocrisy that he has experienced.

Here is just a little taste of the wonderful things they are doing.  I can’t wait to visit!

Our Expressions

Life within the Simple Way is always changing.  Sometimes things we start like our after-school theater program spin-off into entirely new organizations like Yes! And…, other times, changing seasons simply bring changing times, as we started with one house, expanded to a few, went back to one, and now we have launched a new Village House Internship Program.  A lot of what goes on in our neighborhood is a local expression of The Simple Way, while some of our larger, national and global projects, are about connecting with and fostering other outposts of grace and discipleship.  Read more about Our Expressions

I am so happy to be communicating with someone from the Simple Way. I told a friend that I would really like to meet Shane Claiborne and he said, “You will.”  I had my doubts because I see Shane as a very busy, internationally known person.  But if he is in town, I bet that I will meet him and I hope I can interview him as well.  But definitely meeting all his friends will be just as good!

Philadelphia and The Simple Way–here I come~on July 22-29.

Thirdway Church: A community I am about to contact

Thirdway Church in St. Paul, Minnesota sounds like a community/church that is a model that many churches could learn from.  I want to learn everything I can, and serve in any way I can if I can find a way to visit them.  I read every word on their website, and listened to a few of the sermons by Seth McCoy, the pastor. I felt very inspired and I really hope I can find someone to host me there.  Here is their description:

“We are a young mennonite community of followers of Jesus Christ, committed to love like God, to follow Jesus life and teachings, center our lives around community, and work for the reconciliation of all people to God  and each other. The name of our community comes from the teachings of Jesus to express God’s love at all times by choosing new creative responses to the brokenness in our own lives, and the brokenness we find in the world. This means we are always looking for the third option in a world of violence and withdrawal.”

Here are some of the reasons I am visiting this community/church.

1.  When I heard Seth McCoy, the pastor, speak at Woodland Hills church and explain that Thirdway was a kind of a church plant from Woodland Hills Church. I wasn’t clear as to what exactly their relationship was, but obviously if Seth is welcomed to speak at Woodland Hills Church, the relationship must be good.

2.  Greg Boyd is the pastor at Woodland Hills Church.  Greg;s teachings  greatly inspired Robert  (my former husband),  seventeen year old Mahriyanna (our daughter) and I.  Cliff (my other former husband) and Chris (our 24 year old son) have also appreciated Greg’s writings and sermons (We have been watching his sermons for the past eight months, I read his book “Seeing is Believing” and  I have read his www.reknew.org blog extensively).  One of the reasons I feel as if Greg is one of  the greatest contemporary Christian leaders is his efforts to unite followers of Jesus who share the following value of Christian life:

“At the center of ReKnew is the very old yet new idea that Jesus reveals what God is really like. And that image — of God invading creation to ultimately die on a cross — stands in stark contrast to what most people now think of as “Christian.” Sadly, throughout history Christians have often allowed this simple and beautiful message to be hijacked by religion, politics, and the assumptions of the day, replacing the revolutionary truth that self-sacrificial love is not only who God is — it’s what saves the world” See more at: http://reknew.org

I took a long time to talk about Greg to emphasize–anyone he recommends and is cooperating with is someone that I already have high hopes that we have shared values.

3.  I really appreciate that the church members try to live in close proximity to each other and  share their lives.  This is what they say on their website:

intentional community

Folks at Thirdway try to be neighbors with one another in order to deepen our community with each other and to share a sense of mission together. We choose to live in proximity with other members in order to share more life together including care for children, meals together, and sharing of resources.

I feel very excited that Thirdway was started with the concept of Intentional Community.  The combination of church and intentional community is something that I think is going to spread like wildfire.  It is starting to happen more and more, and I want to experience it!

4.  Each member must be a member of a covenant group.  I very much appreciate this because that means that every one is accountable to someone as well as being discipled by someone.  Small groups are where people really can feel safe and where healing can happen.  It sounds like the groups are not just small study groups, but people who are committed to each other.  Here is the description on their website:

covenant life

All members of third way are in covenant groups.  Covenant Groups are made up of 6-8 people mixed between married and single folks who meet together each week for discipleship, nurture, and accountability.  Once a month, at our covenant member meeting, the covenant groups meet all together to share about our life together and talk about decisions facing our community. ‘

5.  I love their commitment to work conflicts out in constructive, biblical ways and be at peace with each other.

 As community members we commit to resolving conflict according in the way prescribed in Matthew 18. We commit to extend self- giving love to all people in the same way God does. This includes our enemies. We commit to following the Spirit’s leading as we partner with God to mend our world.

6.  I got a very good feeling from Seth when I heard three of his sermons. I found him to be inspiring, having a good knowledge of the bible and how to teach it, and humble.

7.  I like that fact that a woman, Jen McCoy, is the “organizer” of the fellowship.  I am not sure what the title organizer means–but it sounds like they are trying to avoid an authoritarian style of leadership.  I don’t think it means that she organized the whole fellowship.

8.  This line gave me the impression that this group values a kind of consensus decision making.

Once a month, at our covenant member meeting, the covenant groups meet all together to share about our life together and talk about decisions facing our community. ‘

I can’t wait to find out more about their decision making structure. I get the sense from one of the sermons where Seth was talking about leadership that they really value input from everyone.  This is very important to me.

9. I read every word (except for the blog) on the website and I felt inspired, uplifted, and in agreement with what I read.  I even went to the Mennonite website and read a bit there.  I felt very much in alignment with the few things I read. I definitely resonate with their peace statement here.  I read about how they perceive Jesus here.   I read about their view of the bible here. I will need to read the whole website before I know for sure–but I have a feeling I might be a Mennonite.

10.  I just speed read 50% of the Mennonite Church USA website and I know I am going to be studying this denomination more closely. I felt my heart sing because I perceive that they are expressing accurately how Jesus wanted us to live.  So that makes me even more excited about visiting this community.

I decided to look at the blog, and wow!  There are so many wonderful things happening in their fellowship. This is getting exciting. I especially felt drawn to the creative aspect of their involvement with their neighborhood.

I discovered in their blog that they were connected to Reba Place Fellowship because they wanted to give some money to this community which the first I am visiting.  I looked more deeply into Reba Place Fellowship’s website and discovered that people there are members of the same Mennonite denomination as Thirdway.  I feel very  hopeful about this connection.

Well, once again, the experience of getting ready for my journey has been as enriching as I know the journey will be.  And now I am ready to contact Jen McCoy, organizer of the Thirdway Church, and see if she might be willing to help me find someone to stay with as I learn about their community and help in any way I can.

A dream I had about Thirdway Church

I shared in another blog post the reasons that I wanted to visit Thirdway Church.  I had a dream about this group last night. Here it is.

The Dream about Thirdway Church:

I knew that I was with members of the Thirdway church.  I told the group that I wanted to work for them. They immediately built me my own office space. I was a bit disappointed because I had envisioned being part of a kind of open work space, but I was delighted to be welcomed so profusely.  Within hours a construction crew had built me a tiny office that was very narrow with just enough space for a desk.  The ceiling was very high. It was a very unusual office because it was built at a kind of angle, with the desk facing the wall.

Once I got into my office, I sat at my desk.  I started singing a song. Everyone joined in.  I was pleased that they didn’t feel as if their work was being interrupted. They delighted in me.  I immediately invented something. I can’t quite remember what it was–something to do with pouring water into something.  In some ways it worked well, in another way the invention was a failure.  But no one seemed upset.  In fact, they were excited that I was at least trying to do something positive.

I felt a sense of belonging, joy, kindness and welcoming.  People really wanted me to use my gifts and talents.  I felt as if I had come to a place where I could work with a group of people in a positive way.  It was rather strange because I can’t remember individuals. Rather, it was a group energy that pervaded the dream.  I vague remember talking to the coordinator.

Comments on the dream:

When I listened to a few of Seth’s sermons on Thirdway’s website,  I was touched by both Seth’s words and the energy of the group.  The recording device picked up clearly the laughter of the people in the congregation when Seth would say something that was funny.  He has a dry wit that I enjoyed.

So I got a sense from that plus the website plus things that Seth said about their community structure that these people were very warm hearted, authentic, and close to each other.   Perhaps that is why it was easy for me to have a dream where I experienced this from the people in my dream.

I don’t remember reading anything in the website about an office where everyone worked together.  But I could imagine this group starting a business that could be an outreach as well as a source of income as well as a space they could work where spaces could be rented out to entrepreneurs.  I just looked up this very creative co-work which give some ideas about co-working space. https://www.desktimeapp.com/spaces/48-the-coop  Now that I think about it, my office space was not a cubicle where I was isolated.  I had enough privacy so that I could focus, but easy access to other co-workers who seemed to be on various levels.  But no one seemed to be an authoritarian boss.

This dream is very unusual for me because I don’t remember my dreams that often.  I also can’t recall a time where I read the content in a website then immediately dreamed about what read.  (I had read every word on the website the evening before I slept because I wanted to be totally educated about Thirdway Church before I contacted them and asked them if I could stay with someone in their group.)

What a wonderful dream.  Just another incident that makes the preparation for my journey as rich and rewarding as I know the journey will be.

Mikkelson-Kersbergen Family

My Family

I love my family. My former husband Robert. Our daughter, Mahriyanna (now married to Josh Harms) Patricia, Chris, (Cliff and Patricia’s son) and my other former husband, Cliff. I am so happy that we could all stay together as a happy family after all these years. Without my wonderful family as a loving support, I could not have kept my vision alive that has evolved into the Jesus Vegans Project. Thank you, dearest family!

Patricia’s statement of faith

Our community does not have a group statement of faith yet. Here is mine:

The short answer is: I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I attempt every day to follow Him in all I do, say and think.

The long answer is: http://www.bic-church.org/about/articlesoffaith.asp

This link leads to the beliefs of the Brethren in Christ which is a denomination which I have found to be completely in alignment with. Their beliefs are open enough to have further conversations, and closed enough to hold the orthodox beliefs that C.S. Lewis describes in the classic MERE CHRISTIANITY

The church called The Meeting House  has thousands of hours of video, audio and written teachings which have deeply inspired me to aspire to live out the clear teachings of Jesus more than ever.  The Meeting House is part of the Brethren in Christ denomination and demonstrates how a denomination that has been in existence for over 230 years which  can be fresh and relevant yet still have the conservative beliefs that I share.

Staying at the Simple Way community is simple

I reserved a room at the Hospitality House  which is a kind of simple hotel where people who want to take part in the neighborhood and community activities at The Simple Way community can stay.  It costs only $25 a night unless one stays longer.  I am staying there a week and I get a  40 percent discount.  I am so happy that going to this community was so simple because last I had heard it was rather difficult to visit.

When I had thought about going to the Simple Way years ago the web site said “don’t just show up at our door step because we probably can’t accommodate you.”  I have a feeling they were inundated with visitors after Shane Claiborne, who helped found the community, wrote “The Irresistible Revolution.”  This can be really stressful for a community, especially a Christian one, which wants to help people, but also needs to draw healthy boundaries.

I am excited about visiting these folks. I have not made a direct contact yet. They prefer to communicate via snail mail.

I just have one more community to contact now–The Third Way in St. Paul.  I’m on it:)