It’s been just under two years since I originally started This Beautiful Life as a blog. While there aren’t nearly as many posts as I would like, the years have not been without progress for TBL. In fact, the faces, places and spaces of 2011-2012 have all worked together to add definition to my original concept, casually outlined in an introductory post from April 12, 2011.
For much of the past two years, I’ve found it difficult to explain the concept of building community using a lifestyle grounded in agriculture and simple, beautiful living. No single word or phrase seemed to really identify my intentions. The word “commune” often came to mind, as it conjures the ideas of community and even growing food, but the political connotations of the word felt too heavy when describing my vision.
“Retreat center,” “shelter,” “artists‘ retreat,” “halfway house,” and the like also came close to describing some elements of my vision, particularly as it relates to hospitality and providing a place of rest, healing and growth. The growth of “agritourism” as an industry and the increasing popularity of “farm stays” help emphasize the farm part of TBL but is wanting in an emphasis on promoting ongoing community.
Specific examples of already existing places, like L’Abri in England also helped me get close to the idea, but again, were not quite the vision behind This Beautiful Life.
While not entirely detrimental in my ongoing exploration of TBL, the linguistic dilemma of how to describe my dream of “living in community on a farm” has inhibited effective communication regarding any specifics of this dream.
Just a couple months ago, I had the occasion to meet someone who shared his experience of participating in a dedicated, year-long residential community that emphasized the personal spiritual formation of each participant. The program allowed this young man, along with seven other young adults, a concentrated time to explore what it means to live a Christian life devoted both to Christ and community. The program also encouraged and facilitated growth in important life skills, including career prep and household management.
Specifics of my acquaintance’s program aside, it was the title of the program, “Community Discipleship House,” that immediately struck—and stuck with—me. Oh-so obvious and self-explanatory, the phrase is surprisingly uncommon. (Of the few places online I could find containing the phrase, most reserve it for ministries focused on bringing hope and healing to individuals suffering from addiction.)
Despite its scarcity, I’m amazed at how well “Community Discipleship House” fits the vision of This Beautiful Life—it’s a term that is simultaneously narrow enough to be worthwhile but still broad enough that the specifics can be left for further discovery.
Some upcoming posts will be dedicated to unpacking this term and how it is shaping the present and long term visions for this beautiful life.