(Note: My previous post introduced the image of the green hill. Because the word “Zion” means so many things to so many people, this post and my future posts will use the phrase “green hill” as shorthand for individual people’s efforts to build zion-like communities.)
My initial interest in building a green hill was just to live near my friends and family — something as simple as purchasing land, building houses, and inviting my loved ones to come on over. But, while that would be wonderful, I realized that my dream was about more than just building a “friends of Dane club”. I don’t want to be the linchpin that holds everyone together.
The sad truth is that human beings don’t naturally, spontaneously gather together in harmony. Any intentional community will result from the influence of:
- a charismatic leader,
- a shared group interest,
- or a uniting purpose or identity.
A community gathered around a specific person or interest is fragile, and unlikely to last beyond a single generation. I want my green hill to be about something, about something that’s bigger than any of its members.
I observed that “about-ness” or purpose in communities comes from three related areas (or maybe I’m just in the mood for lists of three today):
“Lifestyle” is about the cultural norms and expectations of community members. Do members share meals together? Do they swap babysitting? Are community chores managed by members, or is maintenance hired out? Does the community encourage social activities? Athletic activities? Education? Performance? Discourse?
“Space” refers to the physical layout of the community — how big are the dwellings? Are they spaced close together or far apart? How are they oriented? Does the community provide community facilities, like a clubhouse, dining hall, rec center, swimming pool, or playground? Is the community designed with walking paths or driving roads? Are lots divided by fences or do they share yard space?
“Program” identifies the overarching mission of the community. In an eco community, the mission is to live sustainably with the environment, and the program is the set of managed activities that guide members toward that goal. In a Christian enclave community, the mission is to live in accordance with a particular vision of Christianity, and the program is the structure of authority that guides members toward that goal.
The lines between lifestyle, space, and program are not clearly defined, and each has an influence on the others. A community’s lifestyle will be heavily influenced by its physical layout. Every community has space and lifestyle, but not every community has a program. In my next several posts, I will look at each of these three community attributes in more detail, and I hope to provide some tools on each of them for any aspiring community builders out there.