2019 Retreat Reflections: Why We Do It

At this year’s Genesis Retreat at Camp Vanasek, we spent time reflecting on the first part of our mission statement to remind ourselves who we are and why we exist.

“We live intentionally together giving of ourselves to create a close-knit, Jesus-centered community…”

We live intentionally. We didn’t trip into this, we choose to do this by design, on purpose, deliberately.

We live together. We can’t do it alone- we need each other.

We give of ourselves. We voluntarily bring our personalities and our stories, as well as our strengths to build each other up, and our weaknesses to be refined.

We create a community. This is a dedicated and collaborative effort. It takes work!

We are close-knit. Familial, thick, tight, together.

We are Jesus-centered. Regardless of all else, Jesus is the origin point, the middle, the one we derive our identify from, and are concentrated around.

But why do we do this?

David Janzen says intentional Christian communities “are local experiments the world can see of what the Sermon on the Mount looks like among a group of people sold out for Jesus.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces a new way of life that moves us out of the Kingdom of the World and into the Kingdom of God. As he contrasts these two kingdoms, Jesus repeats over and over, “You have heard it said … but I say ...” He uses these phrases six times! He is establishing that the Kingdom of God is different than we thought. We have heard it said that we are not to murder, but Jesus says if we are angry at someone we are subject to judgement. We have heard it said that we are not to commit adultery, but Jesus says if we lust we have committed adultery in our heart. We have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but Jesus says to love our enemies.

Our opportunity at Genesis is to be a living demonstration of this now and future reality that Jesus describes.

We have heard the world say many things, but in intentional community Jesus calls us instead to a life of following what he says.

For instance, we have heard it said:

  • If you’re upset with someone it’s okay to vent to your friends- it’s healthy to express your emotions!

  • If some people make you feel uncomfortable, just hang out with people who are easier to deal with.

  • If what is asked of you is stretching, or requires sacrifice, or is hard, let someone else do it.

  • Your safety and security are in your jobs and your money and your padlocks.

  • If it makes you feel good it must be good.

  • If you have something to say, speak your mind- it’s good to make sure everyone knows what you really think!

  • You have to take care of yourself first.

  • There’s not enough to go around.

  • If you worry about things ahead of time, you’ll protect yourself.

  • Go ahead and subtly slip into conversation what a boss you are at doing good deeds.

  • Your worth is in what you have or what you do.

  • Work yourself into the ground- the busier, the better!

  • Feel free to pass value judgments on everyone and everything they do.

BUT Jesus says:

  • Love the least of these

  • Put others above yourselves

  • Serve one another

  • Your Heavenly Father will provide

  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry

  • Do everything without complaining or arguing

  • Don’t do your good deeds to be praised by others

  • Leave judgement to God

  • Come to me for rest

  • Each of you is beloved by God.

This is the why. To create a place where we live not by “You have heard it said…” but by Jesus’ words, “I say…”

2019 North Shore Camping Trip Photo Recap

1/3 of the GC community made it up to the North Shore for a summer camping trip. Cliff jumping, campfire songs, collecting rocks, what more could you ask for? Also, happy birthdays to Phil, Kristina, and Josiah!

Living the Genesis Life

When you first tell your friends/family you're moving into an intentional Christian community.


Every Monday.

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At the end of a maintenance project.

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After the grass seed is planted.

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I have no idea who is paying for which viewing platform anymore.


When everyone in your house is using the internet at the same time.

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How to deal with mice.


Backyard chickens.


Scoping out the community shelf.

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After bread delivery.

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When it's your turn to shovel the sidewalk.


When you can't find your mug/pot/knife/tupperware.


When the weather cools down.

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Welcome to the neighborhood. 


2017 Nurturing Communities Gathering

I live my life in widening circles       
That reach out across the world.  
— Rainer Maria Rilke

We, at Genesis, love our little circle on Park Avenue, but when we can widen that circle, we find great joy in the new faces we meet.  This summer, we were honored to expand that circle a little bit more as we hosted the Nurturing Communities Gathering for the second year in a row.  Spending the weekend with old friends that we hadn't seen since the summer before, and meeting new friends, all in the name of Christian Community, we met together to share our stories and learn from one another.


As we engaged with new friends around the bonfire, or around the table, we found ourselves fed by so much more than marshmallows or delicious brisket tacos, (which Sara lovingly spent hours preparing, and which were delicious!), in coming together we were fed by communion with one another.

We started off with introductions at our Saturday morning session at Luverne.

We started off with introductions at our Saturday morning session at Luverne.

We were joined this year by members from a number of communities:  Steiger House, Bruderhof, Fusion House, Elmendorf, Altona, Visitation Monastery, Inner Change, Kappa Pi Alpha, People of praise, and Post-Community House.  Each intentional community brought their interesting perspectives and ideas as we shared our thoughts on topics including welcoming the marginalized, Spirit-led decision making in community, and ecumenism in ordinary life.  


Worship is a unifying event.  When we all turn our hearts upward to praise the One True God, we are unified, despite our differences.  Mikki, Karene & Tom from Fusion House led us in a beautiful time of worship on Saturday morning.  It was a perfect example of how individuals from separate lifestyles can come together as one, in Christ- which was just the way to start off our day.

" For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ...Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it."  1 Corinthians 12:12,27 NASB

The story of the prodigal son came alive as Sara shared from her heart and showed us ways in which we can apply an old story to our lives today.

The story of the prodigal son came alive as Sara shared from her heart and showed us ways in which we can apply an old story to our lives today.

Friday night dinner outside.  The community kids had the right idea, sitting under the patio umbrella as the sprinkling rain dampened the yard, but not our spirits!

Friday night dinner outside.  The community kids had the right idea, sitting under the patio umbrella as the sprinkling rain dampened the yard, but not our spirits!

Some found very creative ways to escape the rain.

Some found very creative ways to escape the rain.


As we continue to live our lives "in widening circles," here at Genesis, we have found that by reaching out to others, it is not only the world that is changed.  As we open our hearts and community to those around us, by listening to and learning from others, WE ourselves can change and grow.  That is what the Nurturing Communities Gathering is all about: coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ to connect in the unity we share, learn from one another in our differences, and in doing so - to grow.

The Gathering

Part family get together, part retreat with the Lord.

The Nurturing Communities Gathering last month was a great time to slow down, spend some time resting in the Lord, and to connect with a special network of believers - believers who express their faith in God through living together in close proximity with their sisters and brothers in the Lord. We were sixty-some adults and fifteen children from eighteen communities, coming from as far as Brooklyn NY and Vancouver BC. One group (the Bruderhof) is celebrating a hundred years of history, and one still unnamed Chicago group is only a month old. Some communities live in huge apartment buildings, and some in normal houses.  Some live in the city, and some in the wilderness, but all came together at Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston Illinois to connect, share, rekindle focus, and share real struggles that communities are processing.   


Here are the things that stood out most to me about the Nurturing Communities Gathering

The people – people from all sorts of communities came together.  From Caneyville Community in Kentucky – a horse and buggy Amish community living on 200+ acres in the country, to Jesus People USA living in a renovated hotel in Chicago.  There was a richness in culture and diversity in how people have chosen to follow Jesus in Intentional Christian Community.  

The presence of God – sometimes in our busy life, we are moving so fast that we forget to pause.  I know that I do.  The opportunity to praise God many times a day, to pray, and to remember that I serve an awesome God is really, really good.  

The family time – Sara and I and the kids were able to get some good family time.  We got a really good pie at the corner store, and we took a great hike to Lake Michigan through some grand old neighborhoods in Evanston.  

The community – There was a great level of “realness” going on at the gathering.  It was hard to round people up for prayer before meals, because everyone wanted to keep on talking.  Intentional Christian Community is a way to do ministry, and with many ministries, there’s good stuff happening, and some challenging stuff too.  Some communities have gone through hard times lately, and they honestly brought that forward for prayer and discernment.  Some communities have been stable for a long time, but are now in need of attracting the younger generations to their community to keep the community going for the next generation.  Being real is vulnerable, but it was done well at the Nurturing Community Gathering – thanks be to God.

The friendships - This is the 3rd year that I've came to the Nurturing Communities Gathering, and getting to know Alden, Sally, Orwin, Neil, Charles, Allan, and Josias among other new friends has been such a special blessing.  Its fun to have a 73 year old friend, and its so great to see the same faces year after year, and know that we're "in this together".


Overall, it was a really great gathering.  Can't wait to go to the next one fall of 2015.  

Andrew Howard

Here are some photos from the gathering: