Visiting Boston was especially exciting because none of us had been there before. We had met two couples from Boston at a church planter’s retreat a year ago who had invited us to come visit their community.
This year we’re going to use Story of the World as part of our history curriculum. I bought the audio version to take with us on our trip, and saved it for a surprise for this next segment of our trip. It helped the hours pass by much more quickly. Right as we were passing NYC, the narrator described how Broadway got it’s name, then we heard about Boston’s history as we got close to the city. I couldn’t have possibly coordinated the details so well if I had tried.
Medford, our destination, is suburb located on the north side of Boston. Boston is packed with history–a homeschooler’s delight. Jingle Bells was written here (see the plaque below), and it’s so easy to imagine a winter sleigh ride on these streets.
This area is really lovely with a lot of homes built in the late 1800’s. The group we were visiting lives in intentional community–sharing often in daily life. Three of the families live in two houses on one property. One home is a two-story house big enough for one family to live upstairs while the downstairs is home for another family and includes a large room used for church services. Several other families live close by.
They really enjoy living in close proximity because they can easily share meals, spend evenings together, and gather for prayer as needs come up. They all homeschool, but they also have the advantage of a co-op of sorts just outside their door. It is not communal living, though. Each family has their own space and functions as a separate unit. However, they are close enough to support each other in so many ways throughout the week.
After we had eaten dinner and taken a short walking tour of Medford our first evening, several families from church gathered on the patio area to talk and eat dessert together. Gatherings like this might happen as often as several times a week for them. The church families often invite other people they’ve been connecting with throughout the week through work, classes, or in conversation to join them for an evening of fellowship.
In his book King Jesus Claims His Church, Finny Kuruvilla, one of the group’s leaders describes his beliefs on what it means to follow Christ and build His church. Through living together and spending hours in conversation, the group is still working out what kingdom living will look like for them.
The group at Followers of the Way is very warm and welcoming. We felt a camaraderie among them that easily resembled a large family, and they invited us and other visitors into their circle individually and as a group.
It was a privilege to be a part of these discussions and to learn more of what it looks like to live in close community. Both Saturday and Sunday evenings a group of us stayed up past midnight engaged in deep conversation. This might have been difficult for families of young children in some places, but here it was easy to get the children to bed then step back into the group.
A few things we found insightful:
:: Living in community creates an easy gathering into which the church can invite people they meet throughout the week. In urban settings where people do not visit in homes as freely, joining in with a group that has a large family atmosphere will probably feel less intimidating.
:: Living in community requires sacrificial living. I think this may be part of the purpose–the peeling back layers of self and living for the cause of Christ and for our brothers and sisters. Homes become less our space and more a space where people outside our family are always welcomed into. Each of the three families on the property had at least one single person staying with them and shared their space for large group discussions and/or meals at least once in the two days we were there. Having this many people in their homes was not just a busy weekend for them, but typical life. [For those of you unfamiliar with this culture, it is very common in Anabaptist groups to host people in our homes for meals or for the night-whether we are friends, acquaintances, or friends of friends.]
:: The group here has an acutely clear vision. Seeing them process and work out their vision in person confirmed the importance of clearly established goals in church planting.
There’s so much more, so if you want to hear more call Steve or I or we would be happy to talk about it more in person. :)
While we valued community before our visit, we noticed benefits of community that we hadn’t seen before. Living in a community that is this close in a physical sense of living right next to each other and doing daily life together might not be our goal. Still, Steve and I really value learning from other people and we learn a lot by listening to a wide range of ideas.
Sunday morning our hosts kindly took us on a tour of Boston–doubly nice because we got to see so much more than we would have if we would have tried to find all these places on our own.
Boston wowed me. We were on a quick walking tour trying to cover as much as we could in just a few hours, but it was the kind of place that made you want to be still and take in all the colors and lines, the movement, the people. We’d walk past places with signs indicating they were the first meeting house or the oldest church in Boston or America.
After this we headed back home where the church family was gathering for their weekly church. The ladies take turns preparing a meal for the church. It was a laid back, outdoor affair with lots of time for conversation. The children played nearby on a small playground then gathered into the middle of the group when it was time for communion. Afterward everyone headed up to the meeting room for the main church service. There were lots of visitors to make a total of about fifty people.
Afterward there was another gathering on the patio. The women had all brought food for an evening meal, so again there was food and more discussions that stretched long into the night. That might sound boring here, but really the time flew by because the conversations were really good. The boys had such a good time playing for hours with their new friends. It was so nice to see them run and play and not need to worry about safety. Parenting felt pretty easy in general because the boys were so happily occupied the whole weekend. It gave me a lot of time to sit with other ladies which was nice.
I’d had a birthday on Sunday, so on our way out of the city Monday morning Steve drove back to a really charming street we’d seen the day before just so I could buy a treat. I LoVe trying new foods. If it had been feasible, I would have loved for us to eat traditional, local foods in all of the places we visited. We really were there to focus on spending time with people and ate our meals in their homes, so we didn’t get to try much local flavor. To meander into an Italian pastry shop for an iced coffee and a freshly-filled cannoli was a perfect present. Oh, my.
Next up: NYC!
If you missed them, here are the earlier travel entries Part 1: Virginia Part 2: Philadelphia