New Monasticism: a community house in Minneapolis
Over a decade ago, I had what I now recognize as an important formative experience in my life and faith. Together with a group of kids from church I visited a house in Minneapolis where a bunch of dirty hippies helped their neighbors with donations of food, clothes, and time. Real Christian charity in action. We were there to pick up paint flecks from around the house next door that they had chipped off earlier in order that it could be repainted.
Coming from my limited experience, these young men and women blew my mind, and I wanted to be one of them. At the time I was attracted to superficial aspects of the lifestyle as I saw it: skateboarding to work! A CD with swears on it! Boys and girls living together! But most importantly, they had chosen intentionally to live in a "bad" neighborhood in order to serve the people in it, instead of retreating to the safety of the suburbs which had sheltered me for so long.
Watching, eating with, and working alongside the people living in that house was my first exposure to a communal Christianity. It certainly broke a conceptual box and opened my mind to new possibilities for what an authentic person of faith could be like. I regret not learning more about them (Missio Dei and Salvage Yard are a couple of groups doing this kind of ministry) but it launched me on a search for different kinds of spiritual experience that helped make me the well-rounded person I am today.