New Mexico -Jan 2012
I write this to share with the people who we met, those who supported us in this trip, and other folks who might be interested in the developments below. There are explanations and details left out for brevity’s sake. Feel free to ask us any questions remaining unanswered here.
Candace and I lived in Clovis, NM working with a Methodist congregation from 2003-2008 before moving to Reba Place. We joined Reba Place to study and learn about Intentional Community from the inside, rather than through books alone. We have been here for more than three years now. We had hopes and dreams of starting a Christian community among the poor. As the dream grew, we considered locations. In the past few years, our hopes were more and more for the mountain regions of New Mexico.
Earlier experiences in mission and with community led us to this conclusion: sharing life together in a community planted with the marginalized and disenfranchised is our calling – our life of worship and vocation.
Neither of us have a home town that we’ve grown up in, due to several re-locations as children. We’ve both had significant experiences in the mountains of New Mexico. The mountains have the best appeal to us, when we think about a next step and a place to settle.
The Pretense of the Trip:
Members of our small group pointed out that an author (Bill Plotkin) some were reading was going to present in Albuquerque. Candace immediately wanted to see if we could attend the conference. I had wanted to meet Richard Rohr (co-presenting at the conference) because he has done some work with intentional communities in NM. The conference was a chance to interact.
We discerned this idea with our small group and friends living in the southwest. We decided that it would be possible for us to make the trip, and some friends were going to meet us at the conference. Our community commissioned us to soak up the material of the conference and prepare to make a presentation in the next month. We made plans to visit a plot of land one friend had available in the mountain region. My parents agreed to fly from Florida to Chicago so they could watch our kids while we were at the conference.
Prior to the trip, I called the conference office of the United Methodist Church in Albuquerque to ask what sort of community things they knew about. They did not know of much. I also talked with a Methodist woman in Dallas who has New Monasticism on her radar. Also, I learned of the Mennonite Church USA’s presence in Albuquerque, made contact with the pastor, and set up a meeting with her – because our hope is to be connected with a denomination when beginning a new community.
Friday, after we landed, we went straight to Albuquerque Mennonite Church’s pastor, Anita Amstutz. She met with us for an hour and talked to us about the ways people in that congregation are making proximity a priority to their worshiping community. By the end of the meeting she said we should really try to get in touch with Todd Wynward, a man who lives north of Taos with his family. She said he was doing a lot of interesting things.
On Thursday night I emailed Todd, after a full day of a very enjoyable conference. We weren’t sure he would write us back because he lives close to the land. He did call – that same night! I talked with him for a while, and he urged us to visit their place while we were in the area. (Taos is about a 3 hour drive one-way from Albuquerque, so this was asking for a lot of time away from our conference). After some thinking, and learning that most of the friends we’d hoped would come to see us canceled, we agreed that this would be a good thing. In fact, we were asking our small group (through e-mail) to pray for us as we sought to make the right connections. So, we set up a time to meet with the Wynwards.
Our Experience on Saturday:
Though our conference was really picking up steam and shedding light on our lives, we hopped in the car with our friend who was able to come out (Jenni – Candace’s dearest college friend), and made the winding trip up the Rio Grande valley.
Fifteen miles north of Taos lies the town of Lama, NM. We made our way past the wilderness camp grounds and the nature based school, to the yurt behind a little adobe house there. Peg and Todd greeted us warmly and invited us in for tea. We didn’t have a full hour of conversation before we started seeing all the things to see. Though the time was short, Candace and I felt a strong connection – these people were walking a parallel journey to ours – maybe ten years ahead of us!
In Lama Peg and Todd have established a nature- based charter school called Roots and Wings for forty- four students kindergarten through eighth grade. Most of the students are on free or reduced lunches. Within walking distance from their home and the school is a wilderness camp and land where they raise sheep, goats, and yaks. The land owner has reserved 700 acres in a land trust to be preserved as wilderness, while keeping 100 acres for his own and the community’s use. We learned that water-sourcing is a primary concern when living off the land in Taos, and this generous person allows some people use of his natural water supply. Additionally, the Wynwards are involved with local food sourcing in Lama and Taos, as well as local food distribution to those in need.
In Taos, Todd has been planning to start a Christian community, though his current commitments keep him in Lama for now. They have successfully started a charter high school in town, and Pueblo students are graduating. Their preferred church in Taos (most concerned with discipleship and helping the poor) is United Methodist (surprise!).
They’ve looked seriously at an old school house built in the 30’s as a possible location for Christian community. The building is located in an old and somewhat depressed neighborhood in Taos. The lot is almost an entire acre, available at a good price, and has a lot of potential as a residence for five or six families, as well as space for gardening and other outdoor ventures. The building is a hacienda-style adobe fixer-upper.
In short, this family has been working on something that we have been dreaming about in some very specific ways. The fit seems remarkably, beautifully good.
Update from Candace: Since our trip, we have decided to spend time getting to know this family a little more. We have been writing letters (through the mail!) back and forth. We have also been talking with them on the phone and planning on making visits to one another’s respective locations sometime this summer. Also, Josh and I are praying about who to include on a “discernment team” to help us think through our lives and plans and needs over the next couple of years. We appreciate your prayers, too!
“Most of my life’s been like a wedding: the moment where the bride and bridegroom kiss. Sometimes I can believe all that I hope in. This moment feels like one of them.” – V.O.L.