Village Building: Returning to Simplicity?

Simpler Times VillageA couple years ago Sarah started painting murals, and painted several European village scenes. People would often comment how they long to live a simpler life in a place like the one she painted. We learned that a lot of people feel the same way as we do about slowing down and staying closer to home.
What’s missing in the USA is a neighborhood where others do the same. We also learned that many people are seeing the value of homegrown foods and handmade goods from local farmers and craftsmen. In 2001 we got the Simpler Times Co-op going, to form a local network of families who value a simpler home centered life. Soon we realized we had the ingredients necessary for a real village. Then we knew we needed a development team, a location, really special zoning, and the finances to get the job done.
With a home centered lifestyle, families will naturally spend lots of time together, this made us see a need for such a place as Simpler Times Village. The village we have planned allows this kind of lifestyle to be pursued in a supportive environment with zoning that keeps life local. We just want give families that chance to live daily life close to home.
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Wow. Something leaps in my heart at what the folks at the web link have set out to do. Part of me really relates to that. I plan to register for their forum and email newsletter. I have a feeling that their journey may help catalyze some of my own thoughts. The small-town value system seems very compatible with New Testament church life and the close relational bonds that are suggested in the epistles.My thoughts resonate strongly with the “intentional village” concept.

But, it’s clear that in our culture, we’d need to be intentional in order to achieve that kind of community life. A couple of observations:

First, there is a danger in believing that the form, per se, will accomplish this, that is by creating an intentional small town we’ll also create a nascent utopia. I don’t think so. A picture of that kind of thinking gone dreadfully awry is M. Night Shylmalan’s cautionary tale,”The Village.” That’s carried to a fanciful extreme, of course. A more realistic danger might be real people trying to live on Disneyland’s “Main Street USA!”
Form doesn’t accomplish relationships. Most of us who have been doing simple churches (house church ) for a long time will caution newcomers that the form isn’t the answer. That said, I still find the whole concept of a development built around those community values very attractive even if tweaking the form won’t assure positive community values. At best, manipulating the form may just help neutralize some of the cultural illnesses that seem to prevent them. It may be like pulling the weeds out of the garden so the desired plants are free to grow.

Another concern I’m working through, is the danger of withdrawing from culture- becoming an enclave or monastery. Jesus prayed against that kind of thing when he asked the Father not to take us out of the world.

Nevertheless, I think intentional community and small-townness is going to be more and more attractive in an alienated and isolated culture and the community of the church may be able model that for the world.

As I ponder what I’m writing I can come up with a hundred “yabuts” (YA-BUT: noun, taken from the sentence, “yeah, but what about…) Still, the whole concept of intentional community and “urban villaging” as mulch for a fruitful relational garden has interested me for a long time.

One thought on “Village Building: Returning to Simplicity?”

  1. Dan, I’m thinking that there is something of value in this “small village” idea of community for the Conversion Project to mull over. Maybe how this type of intentional community addresses contrasts to present cultures core values. Just thinking — thanks for the post.

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