(Previously published as Post 14 for #LentwithESC: http://episcopalservicecorps.org/lentwithesc-rhaynes/)
By Rosemary Haynes
I don’t want to make living in community sound terrible because that is the farthest from the truth. Saying that it is perfect is also farthest from the truth. Intentional community is difficult. I like to picture it as a winding country road, with each opposite side being the perfection and the worst. There are times that I want nothing but to live with my housemates forever. A sense of security comes with living under one roof with others who are there for similar reasons. The moments that are spent together bring joy and laughter and overall a feeling of acceptance in the Christian world. The opposite though, is the moment when you feel alone in the midst of seven people. It is easy to distance yourself from the group because being together all the time is difficult and draining.
Coming into this yearlong program with the Deaconess Anne House, I didn’t fully realize what was expected of me. I was moving across the Mississippi, into a part of the United States that I’ve never stepped foot into before, with other young adults who seemed to have the same (or close to) beliefs and values I did. At first it was the same as making new friends and spending every waking moment together, because of course there would be zero conflict. I gained clarity on conflict in community within months. Conflict in an intentional community is almost essential to the growth process. Learning how to deal with that conflict is dependent on the group dynamic. Deaconess Anne House has it’s own unique way of coming to agreements and understandings of one’s values. During our weekly chapter meeting we say our thanksgivings and our grievances. This doesn’t solve all problems but it allows us as a community to talk about our conflict in a way that isn’t pointed directly at a house member. One of the boundaries I had to learn was understanding that being housemates does not necessarily mean being best friends. This has been a struggle since the beginning and I am only now realizing that building intimate relationships with seven people is difficult and sometimes impossible within a year’s time.
My time at Deaconess Anne House has not been the easiest but it has been the most rewarding 5 months I have experienced. I have grown in ways that I did not believe possible because of the encouragement I receive from my housemates and my community!