Grace and Main

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, we are  affiliated with a Christian community known as “Grace and Main.” I say “affiliated” because Grace and Main is an intentional Christian community, comprised of people who have chosen to live in the inner city of our nearby town. As much as we love them and admire their work, as farmers and rural folks we can never expect to be fully integrated into the community. That requires living in proximate community. Nevertheless, Grace and Main is the closest thing we have to a congregation right now

Last night we hosted the weekly Grace and Main Bible study. Even though we call it a “Bible study,” most of the time we are reading a book together and discussing it. Last night we finished up Jonathan Wilson Hargrove’s book God’s Economy.  Jonathan lives in an intentional Christian community in Durham North Carolina, and he is one of the founders of the new monastic movement. His book is a challenging call to reconsider and reevaluate how we live in what we call “the economy.”

We love being a part of this group, in whatever way we can. These are people who walk the Christian walk 24-7, in personal community with the poor and the marginalized– “the least of these.” At the same time, there is a continual awareness and engagement with the issues of justice that challenge us on a local level, on a national level, and a global level. There is a rejection of and resistance to all those elements of empire that so much of the church world these days seems, by and large, to embrace and promote.

So last night, in our living room, a small community of Christians, whose leaders are half our age, sat and talked about what it means to be nominal citizens of a nation that is now perpetually at war. We wrestled with Jesus’ words that we should “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” One of the men in the room with us last night was homeless and living on the streets a couple of years ago. Thanks to Grace and Main he now has a place to live, and he shares it with those who are still homeless. One of the women in the room with us last night was living in a dilapidated apartment a couple of years ago, being victimized by slumlord. Now, thanks to Grace and Main she has a house of her own, where she is safe and comfortable.  These were not people who received a handout from a local church, whose members then returned to their comfortable suburban lives. Rather, they are people who were brought into community with our friends, who have stayed with them and, I am sure, will always stay with them.

I’m convinced that the future of American Christianity, if it is to have a future, is with communities like Grace and Main.

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16 comments on “Grace and Main

  1. DM says:

    we lived in Christian Community from 1985 to 1990 in Northern New Jersey. It changed my life. I had been a Christian for 5 years already and felt called to some type of counseling/ pastoral ministry (while at the same time continue to earn my keep by swinging a hammer.) It was called being a bi-vocational elder in those circles. I could write a small mini series on what I learned from that season in my life, oh, wait, I did ;-), I have several posts on my other blog listed under “Gilgal Bible Chapel”. http://hearttoheart.wordpress.com/category/gilgal-bible-chapel-west-milford-nj/. One of the highlights was meeting a young man who was also living on the street. Our church took him in, he lived in the men’s dorm, got a job, met a young lady, and 12 years later, asked me to be his best man in his wedding.

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    • Bill says:

      I didn’t even know you had another blog. Glad to have discovered it. I love that story. Real-life redemption is a wonderful thing to see.

      This post started out as a much longer one, detailing why we prefer the G+M model to the more typical types of churches these days. At the last minute I deleted all that because I worried that it would come across as too critical. The important thing, I think, is striking that balance between being small enough to be truly a family-like community, while at the same time living as if we know that we are brothers and sisters with all of humanity and connected in a profound way to all of creation. In our culture it’s hard, I think, to live either of those ways and particularly hard to balance them both.

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  2. Jeff says:

    Bingo! You might be interested in reading this article.

    Your point about balance in your reply to DM is exactly right and it is why I maintain that capitalism has to go. Capitalism destroys community and any attempts at community, witness the sentence in your post about poor people “…who received a handout from a local church, whose members then returned to their comfortable suburban lives.” The hypocrisy is stunning and until people confront that hypocrisy, as MLK did in his Riverside Church speech, nothing will change.

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    • Bill says:

      That kind of giving isn’t hypocrisy, in my opinion. It’s far preferable to those who bemoan poverty but do nothing to try to fight it. It’s just less than the full level of engagement that I think will do the most good and effect lasting change.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, communal living has been around since the 1960s and maybe even before that. Nebraska farm communities used to be not really communal living but living with reliance on community. Harvest time especially during the small grain harvest was a farm community thing. Back when a thrashing machine was used and not a modern day combine, it took a crew of workers to accomplish the harvest. Yes, I’m that old.

    In the household, fall animal processing time found neighbors traveling from one farm to another to help with all that needed to be done to put meat in the freezer for the next year. Garden produce preserving was another communal thing that happened.

    With the advance of technology, practically all that farm communal living has been lost. It seems that deep down God has seeded the need to depend on Him first and others next to live life together. I believe it’s a desire that we all have.

    Have a great communal living day.

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  4. Leslie McConachie says:

    Can you provide the author’s name of God’s Economy? There are appear to be several books (on Amazon) by that title. Thank you.

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  5. El Guapo says:

    As a cynic, it’s good to hear about a good example of religion that takes “love thy neighbor” to heart.

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    • Bill says:

      There’s plenty of good reasons to be cynical, but at the same time most of the “loving thy neighbor” stuff goes unnoticed because a) it tends to be the angry loudmouths who make the news, not the humble and quiet and b) the folks doing the most amazing things aren’t trying to publicize it in order to draw attention to themselves.

      For us it’s been hard to find a place we feel like we fit. It’s the evangelicals, by and large, who are giving sacrificially, sponsoring orphans, running the soup kitchens, adopting abandoned children, funding and staffing medical clinics in the developing world, ministering to prisoners and the addicted, etc. They are, by and large, wonderfully loving, kindhearted, compassionate and generous people. But at the same time, evangelicals (as a whole) tend to embrace things that are completely contrary to our values in other areas, such as war, violence, immigration policy, poverty, fair trade, the death penalty, militarism, consumerism, guns, marriage equality, environmental protection, food justice, and the like. It’s a “disconnect” that I just can’t get my head around. Meanwhile the mainline denominations tend to align with our values on social justice, yet my experience has been that they seem far less committed, by and large, to actually personally doing anything about it. I keep qualifying my comments because they’re obviously over-generalizations. Plenty of evangelicals apply their ethics consistently over all areas of life and society, and are not at all like the evangelical stereotype. Likewise plenty of mainliners are doing amazing charitable work at great personal sacrifice. But still, it’s been a challenge for us and that’s one of the reasons we love this group so much.

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      • Jeff says:

        If you’ll familiarize yourself, however imperfectly, with Karl Marx, the “disconnect” will dissolve. Despite his errors (he wasn’t perfect – he built on Smith, Ricardo and others and was heavily influenced by evolutionary thought), Marx still wrote the masterpiece on how capitalism works. Forget about Marxism and communism and all of the “interpreters” of his work – read Marx. Marx was not a Marxist. David Harvey has an online course on volumes 1 & 2 of Capital that is a great introduction.

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  6. shoreacres says:

    I’ve experienced Law, and I’ve experienced Gospel. Generally speaking, I prefer Gospel.

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  7. joelwitwer says:

    The more I read about what God is doing in your life and teaching you, the more I’d love to meet you when I get back to the States!

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