Glimpses of the Acts Community: Living in the Promise and Hope of Christ
For the past several years, I have been fascinated with what I will refer to as the Acts community, as described in Acts chapter four. The people in this community lived radically different lives than those around them, which directs my thoughts to the transformative and creative power of Jesus and the life to which he calls his followers. During college, I often saw glimpses of this group of believers among my own campus faith community, especially when we shared meals, studied Scripture, and came together to do service as a community. These were powerful moments for me and I was continually reminded that we were part of something bigger than ourselves, that we were just a small, yet significant, piece of the story of Christian community.
This year, I have experienced the reality and significance of Christian community in new ways through Saint Hilda’s House, an Episcopal Service Program in which program members live together in an intentional community. As a member of Saint Hilda’s House, I live with six other people at Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Although we all have separate work sites that occupy a large portion of our week, we come back to our house each day and live fully with each other to the best of our abilities. During our first week here in New Haven, we spent time writing a house covenant and explored ways in which we can build and foster a Christ-centered community that encourages us to grow in our love for God, for others, and for ourselves.
In these past few months of living in intentional community, I have caught several glimpses of the Acts community in unexpected ways. One small bit of living in an intentional community that has been meaningful to me is the act of sharing. Not only do we share considerable amounts of time together, but we also share many things with each other. This habit of sharing things strongly reminded me of the image of the Acts community and how the group “had all things in common.” For example, my housemates and I often borrow clothes from each other to wear to work or church. Especially since several of my housemates flew to New Haven from other parts of the country, it has been helpful for us to use each other’s clothes instead of spending money on items that we need. Through this act of sharing clothes and other items, we have been able to live more simply than we would have if we did not live in this type of communal way. Especially in the context of a service year, it is very helpful to live in a community that values sharing. Without sharing our things and helping each other, it would be difficult to live within our means and continue to serve on a limited income.
In addition to the practicality of sharing and being attentive to our commonality, this practice has encouraged us to be dependent on each other and aware of our interdependence. In a strange and transformative manner, I have experienced growth by not having as much independence as I am accustomed to. Transforming from a large university which places a significant emphasis on student life and athletics into a Benedictine community of young adults is truly an engaging and challenging experience. Such as, knowing that I will need to depend on my community throughout the year for various things has helped me to understand myself in new ways and has brought me to reflect on my dependence on God as well.
Living with others and choosing to adopt the practice of sharing has helped me realize that I am part of a larger unit and that my actions, words, and thoughts have a particular ability to affect those around me. The intentional way in which we all came into this community has a profound effect on how we view ourselves as individuals and how we view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I am excited for the rest of my year at Saint Hilda’s House as our community continues to grow into the fullness and the reality of God’s desire for us to live together and share this piece of our lives with each other. I hope to catch more glimpses of the ancient Acts community within the 21st century as we faithfully respond to God’s calling for Saint Hilda’s House.