The road to a space: early conversations

Categories:Story
Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Earlier this week, *culture is not optional put in an offer on historic Huss School in Three Rivers, Michigan. For some, this may be a surprising move for an organization that does much of its work online; however, several folks involved with *cino have been feeling that a move toward a physical space is an appropriate and potentially winsome next step for our work. And then this school building unexpectedly presented itself. So … how exactly did we get here?
The seeds of *cino’s desire for a space are spread throughout the narrative that has shaped and formed our work: seeing the power of shared meals with our high school teachers, watching great films and struggling to comprehend them with a group in college, experiencing intense and life-giving community during our annual *cino camping trips, talking deep into the night with students about worldview-altering ideas and how these ideas might be lived in every day life. More and more, it seems that *cino ought to have a rooted place where we can attempt to embody the ideas of faithful Christian living we’ve been discussing with our online community for almost ten years.
It’s interesting to look back and note our leanings toward place at the organization’s inception. In the early days, *cino was simply a discussion board allowing friends in disparate locations to continue conversations we’d started at Dordt College. At one point, all of us on that board were excitedly and concretely discussing the possibility of purchasing a building or several houses on the same block so we could live in a community similar to the college environment through which we’d all been joyfully and lovingly challenged. After several days of intense online dialogue, everyone backed away from the idea; perhaps we realized we weren’t ready for such an endeavor quite yet.
In the summer of 2001, many of these Dordt friends gathered for a camping weekend in Pennsylvania. After wonderful and wandering conversations, shared meals and hikes through the forest, we realized that others might be interested in exploring what all-of-life Christian faithfulness might look like and how it might change the way we live in our respective communities. At the very least, we knew we had to gather face-to-face again, to do the kinds of things that can only happen when people gather together–which began the annual camping trips *cino has organized ever since.
Shortly thereafter, Kirstin, Grant and I engaged in a series of conversations about what an organization attempting to facilitate this discussion might look like. We realized that the fruitful online discussion we’d already started should continue and sketched out the early ideas for what would become catapult magazine. But we also knew that the discussion couldn’t stay online; the ideas needed to be lived out in local communities if we were truly going to love our neighbors through our work. So we imagined a network of intentional living communities that would be able to support and influence one another, with the intent of serving the cities and towns in which they were located. We have yet to make good on this original idea, but we recognized that, as good as the ideas we were discussing online might be, they were only made real when embodied in place-based community. In addition to these living communities, we thought that *cino could come alongside existing worship communities, partnering with churches to serve their local communities.
Our ideas started growing roots in a specific place when Kirstin and I moved to Three Rivers, though we certainly didn’t realize it at the time. The story continues here …