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Huss Stories: We need each other

Stephen Wirzylo


Stephen demonstrates a homemade drum as part of his session for making musical instruments out of recycled materials in the art tent at Huss Future Fest 2012.

Around the time we were raising the funds for *cino to purchase Huss School in 2009, we received an out-of-the-blue blog comment from someone named Stephen Wirzylo in Toledo.  Turns out Stephen had found us online when he was searching for information about Three Rivers in anticipation of a visit to St. Gregory’s Abbey.  Over the past four years, we’ve been grateful to get to know Stephen better.  He considers Three Rivers his second home, and we consider him a friend and co-laborer in the work of *culture is not optional.  As part of our Huss Stories series, Stephen has offered to share a bit of his story and an invitation to you.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an introvert by nature.  As a very young person, I was almost painfully shy.  I was always afraid of saying something or doing something that would make me a target for ridicule and humiliation by other people.  As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve learned to relax and open up more with others.  Some of it I can attribute to friends and mentors, who taught me how to be confident and courageous even in the midst of difficult circumstances.  Another part is when I became involved in lay ministry almost 10 years ago — I learned that when you’re repeatedly asked to come to churches that you’ve never been to, and lead worship in front of groups of people you’ve never met, you tend to get over any social anxiety you have rather quickly.  In the process, I have been greatly blessed to become acquainted with numerous people who love their churches, who want to help those less fortunate than themselves, and who want to continue to see their congregational communities thrive.

In her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor has a chapter titled “The Practice of Encountering Others.”  In one part of the chapter, she spends some time talking about the Desert Fathers, the Christian hermits and ascetics who lived in the Scetes Desert in Egypt some 1700 years ago.  Although they lived much of their lives as solitaries, Taylor points out that from time to time they would walk many miles to visit each other, often to celebrate communion with one another and share a common meal afterwards.  In spite of the fact that they lived alone much of the time, Taylor writes, they recognized that they still needed each other.  “The wisdom of the Desert Fathers,” she writes, “includes the wisdom that the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self — to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.”

How do we seek to do this, as members and supporters of *cino and the Huss Project? How do we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves? We aspire to do great things, but we all recognize the countless little things that can make a difference for ourselves and our neighbors.  We share meals and conversation together.  We share in the many chores and errands that need to be done, both the mundane day-to-day stuff and when there are larger events planned.  We organize an annual community festival.  We’ve helped plant a (growing!) community garden which supplies local and nutritious food to people in the city of Three Rivers.  We make music.  We tell stories.  We share ideas.  We write thank-you notes.  We interface with other spiritual communities in the local area.  We work to build bridges across racial lines.  We work to build bridges across denominational lines.  We are profoundly grateful for our numerous friends, donors, supporters.  And there are many more things we would love to do and accomplish.  We would love to see Three Rivers as a place where everyone can be part of a larger fellowship, where we can share and learn and grow together.  While we are a close-knit community here at *cino, we are always seeking to expand our circle.  Join us!

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.