A tour of the Simple Way: New possibilities for community in times like these

by tom sine —

Last week we described the welcome growth of multi-cultural churches as we head into a new multi-cultural future. This week Brett Anderson will take us on a tour of the Simple Way Community that is located in a multicultural neighborhood in Philadelphia. Brett and his wife Valerie are residents from South Africa.

We arrive on a very hot day at the end of August. We find ourselves surrounded by literally hundreds of elementary age kids all moving to the music of the Psalters Band. Brett explains they are playing for The School Supply Celebration.

Every year the Simple Way Community collaborates with churches in Philly to put together 500 bags with school supplies to help the kids make a good start into the new school year.

Just before the bags are handed out Shane Claiborne welcomes everyone with an assortment of jugglers, drummers and face-painters as the lines move forward.

After the celebration Valerie and Brett take us into the Simple Way for a cup of tea and describe this unique community. They explain that Shane was part of the group who started this community 14 years ago. Its ministry is quite simply about “Loving God, Loving People and Following Jesus.”

This intentional community consists of 11 people living in three different homes. Monday through Friday they participate in morning prayers using the Common Book of Prayers for Ordinary Radicals.

Friday nights is when the entire community comes together for a potluck offering hospitality to friends from near and far. Brett explains that the typical week is busy with residents running the growing Simple Way ministry under the leadership of Darin Petersen and a board of directors.

One of the best compliments we have received from someone who stayed with us was, ‘It’s so normal.’ Because that is the truth. What we do is pretty normal, but intentional. We try to be good neighbors.

For example, like many homes Simple Way has a garden. Katie Jo is working on re-designing the community garden so that it serves a number of families in their neighborhood. Like many families after school is often a time focused on kids doing homework. What is a little different is that the friends at Simple Way set a place where the kids from the neighborhood can come and do their home work under adult supervision.

Like all families they celebrate the holidays with their kids. But here they facilitate donations of new toys so that neighborhood parents can choose gifts for their children while they enjoy hot chocolate and home-made cookies.

Brett concludes the tour with the observation that “Sometimes we get it really right, but often we miss the mark and completely screw it up. It is often messy, smelly and very unsexy…and exciting and frustrating and exhilarating and intense and rewarding and confusing, and sometimes all of those at once.”

What are your reactions to this kind of community for times like these?

Other useful links:

new monasticism
conspire magazine

Books by Shane Claiborne