Kate Bradsen shares a story of restoration in Tucson, Arizona.
For the last two years, I have helped to form an intentional, ecumenical community called the Restoration Project. We began as a group of young ministers and social justice activists who wanted to live with more intention and spiritual groundedness.
A year ago we rented and moved into a big, old house near downtown Tucson. We share food and cars. We take turns cooking. We offer hospitality and do spiritual practices together. Since the beginning we have offered a weekly meal for anyone who wants to come. Mostly because of this, I think, the community now includes members who do not live in the house. Over the last year, hundreds of people have come to eat, work in the garden and participate in the writing groups, films, workshops and parties. To some, the Restoration Project is becoming their spiritual community, a place where people are known and their gifts are recognised and valued. In this context, we can wrestle with questions of faith, all as we walk alongside one another.
Moments of spiritual ritual have emerged organically. We created a communal piece of public art to remember the 206 migrants who died crossing the Arizona desert last year. We blessed a couple expecting their first child. We created a ritual to stand in solidarity with some of our members who had experienced a traumatic event. For All Saints/All Souls we hosted a potluck where we shared the stories of people we have loved and lost and the food that reminded us of them.
This pioneering stuff hasn't been easy. I don't get paid to do this. When I first stepped out of a traditional church job to cultivate something new, primarily for people who had no spiritual community to call home, some of my colleagues thought I had left the Episcopal Church. Sometimes the Spirit calls us beyond the places institutions are ready to go.
When I look around at our weekly open meal, I get a glimpse at what the Spirit is stirring. Last night, for instance, we were Latinos, Native peoples, Gringos, students, wanderers, farm workers, lawyers, community organisers, grandparents, writers, nurses, engineers and teachers. We were all hungry. We sat and ate together and shared wine and stories. Everyone belonged and no one went away feeling empty. For a moment the beloved community of God was so real we could taste it.