|One step at a time through an alien landscape|
Roman ruins in Syria, 2004. That's me at the back of the line.
Elaine Heath’s interest in the potential Aldersgate House surprised me but seemed to be compelling evidence that God was at work. When I sent an e-mail to the dean of Duke Divinity, I expected no response. After all, she is the relatively new leader of a big, busy seminary. But I got a quick response of interest, and a meeting was set up between Heath, myself, and her colleague, Heidi Miller. The meeting at the Div School was scheduled toward the end of March, 2017, a few days before an Aldersgate congregational retreat on April 1.
In the meantime, I researched Elaine Heath. I read two of her books (God Unbound and We Were the Least of These) and studied the website of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, which she co-founded and directed (https://www.missionalwisdom.com/). I discovered she had helped start several intentional living communities in Dallas, where she lived while teaching at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
The day of our meeting, Heath was ill and not present, but I met with Heidi Miller, who is a leader in the Missional Wisdom Foundation. She described intentional living communities and explained that she and Heath both lived in such houses in Texas. When they moved here, they started two new communities. She invited me to attend an upcoming covered-dish dinner between three local intentional living communities (hers, Heath’s, and one other), and I accepted.
She explained that the Missional Wisdom Foundation folks, through trial and error, had formed a process for selecting people for intentional living communities, and rules that govern them. Members of the community pray, talk, and eat together on a daily basis; they accept the oversight of an “abbot”; and they volunteer with whatever ministry the community/house embraces.
Each community is attached to an "anchor church." Aldersgate House would be a new thing, with the church actually worshiping and meeting in the same space in which the community members lived. It presented some interesting challenges and blessings.
I had no idea organized intentional living communities existed for Protestants, particularly United Methodists. I left the meeting feeling both encouraged and a little overwhelmed. I kept repeating to myself what has now become my mantra: “One step at a time.”