All past and present members of the Lotus House.

Last weekend, the Lotus House celebrated five years of community life at 4977 Lotus Avenue. To commemorate the anniversary, all 17 members and former members of the community reunited for an evening of Thai fajitas (a house favorite), banana peanut-butter cupcakes, and reminiscing. Candace made large posters filled with photos and stories, one for each of our years together. Our resident minstrel Daniel even wrote a song for the occasion.

Although the house was purchased on December 10th 2008, the nucleus of the community formed out the ACTS campus ministry in August of that year. A few of us who were interested in communal life and the New Monasticism started meeting together to talk about the formation of a house in north St. Louis. The core group included Daniel Gray, Micah Bennett, Alden and Candace Bass, and Jayson Vincent. All but Jayson eventually moved into the house. We began by reading some foundational texts on community – Benedict’s Rule, Life Together by Bonhoeffer, and the Twelve Marks. During that time we also drafted what became our own rule of life, modeled primarily on the rules of Augustine, Benedict, and the Third Order Franciscans. That original rule has served us ever since.

Our first few weeks together were tumultuous. A third-floor pipe froze and burst, flooding the entire house while we were away on Christmas vacation in an event which we call The Great Flood. Thieves broke in and tried to steal our stained glass windows, reminding us that Jesus himself comes as a thief. And William Terry moved in, ostensibly for a six-week internship with the Corp (he’s still here), teaching us to welcome God’s unexpected gifts. Despite all the adversity, or perhaps because of all the distraction, we never thought of giving up on the idea of intentional community.

Five years in, we’ve established a rhythm of life around daily prayers, meals and weekly service. We’ve developed certain traditions which sustain our lives together. Perhaps our anniversary reunion will become one of those traditions. Whatever the case, I think we’ve done well making a sustainably intentional life together. Our challenge for the next five years, however, and probably for the next fifty years, is to build genuine community. Most of those who lived at Lotus were not friends before joining the community, although we certainly became friends in time – we didn’t come together because we already liked each other, but because we hoped to grow together into something new. Jean Vanier speaks to the difference between a group of friends and a community. In Community and Growth he writes:

“The difference between community and a group of friends is that in a community we verbalise our mutual belonging and bonding. We announce the goals and the spirit that unites us. We recognize together that we are responsible for one another. We recognize that this bonding comes from God; it is a gift from God. It is he who has chosen us and called us together in a covenant of love and mutual caring.”

Though we came to community for many different reasons and in many different seasons, I believe that those of us who have shared life together at 4977 Lotus Avenue were called together by God and united by the Spirit. The last five years have been a gift, and if the community were to dissolve tomorrow, I would be eternally grateful for my time here. I don’t venture to predict what the Spirit has in store for us in the next five years – I certainly couldn’t have predicted our course of time thus far – but I trust that our end is the communio sanctorum, the shared life of love and shalom.