I tell people my husband and I live in the country but geographically speaking, we really don’t. It’s not that I’m lying, it’s just that our space feels “countryish” to me. Our home sits almost two-tenths of a mile from the road, surrounded by four acres of grass and almost five acres of woods. Although we can see the neighbor’s house when the leaves are down, and the village we belong to starts at the end of our drive. So technically we live in a community, but I don’t live community here in our little town of Jeromesville. I’ve been considering what that means to me for a few years now.
I’ve discovered it is possible to belong to a community but not be a bonafide member of that community. Basically, that’s how I exist in our li’l neck of the woods. Our unassuming town boasts of several churches, but we’ve never visited one. A middle school sits on the main road, yet I’ve never offered to volunteer there (like I have in so many other schools.) Although I know our closest neighbors by name, I haven’t invited them in for coffee. I give a friendly wave to villagers when passing by on my bike, but I don’t stop peddling long enough to get to know them.
This lack of relationship with the people around me, as the country folk like to say, sticks in my craw.
For our people needs, we drive into Ashland. Just a short fifteen minute jaunt through winding roads and rolling farm land. I started developing relationships and planting roots in Ashland in 1997 when I was hired as a teaching assistant at the local seminary. Shortly after we moved to the area in 2007, Jim firmly put down his own roots. He accepted the Director of Operations position with the seminary where I continue to teach as an adjunct. This community, Ashland Theological Seminary, blesses us with friendships, vocational challenges, and spiritual formation.
By God’s good grace, we landed at Park Street Brethren Church, situated in one of Ashland’s oldest neighborhoods. Even the name of the denomination, Brethren, denotes community. And what a community it is! Truly multi-generational, Park Street is also ethnically, socio-economically, and vocationally diverse. I would venture to say there is a diversity of positions on social-political issues, as well. Jim and I have grown to love this community that embraced us from the moment we entered its church building.
For several years now, Jim and I have been painfully aware that while we have great community, we engage in meaningful relationships with others on a limited basis. So on Valentine’s Day, Jim and I had a date to discuss our vision for a more everyday, communal way of life in the next twenty years. (We thought thirty years might be a bit presumptuous!) We solidified our desire to move into a neighborhood close to where we already worked and played. Our mission is to drive our roots down deeper with friends at church and school. Our goal is to increase our service to the hurting community of Ashland, Ohio. We also hope to make an impact with the love of Jesus to those that would live on the streets around us.
We will move into the community where we already have community, following nine years of abiding on this beautiful piece of land.
Our rumblings of discontent have grown loud enough that we’re ready to make some major life changes.
And to be realistic . . .I am acutely aware that the dissonance between where we live and how we’d like to live for others will not automatically dissipate with a geographical move.
Frankly, these lifestyle considerations at the age of sixty are a bit unsettling.
But God settles us with his peace, and that is giving us the courage to move forward.