Beyond the Bubble

Recently, I was sitting in BFCAT with City House student Luke Thompson, as he shared how his time in City House, particularly the practice of walking to and from campus, is challenging him to be more outwardly focused. I knew just what he meant.

As college students, everything we could possibly need is provided on one plot of land, or else is down the road at Walmart. We are encouraged to spend those four years focusing on ourselves: our academics, our extracurriculars, our friends, our resume-building experiences. We live in a community of other people also focused on their own stuff, and so we find ourselves caught in a homogenous, self-focused community, where the majority of us are white and middle class and in our late teens/early twenties. At Geneva, this is referred to as the “Geneva Bubble.” Over time, we begin to lose our ability to see and imagine the world beyond our bubble.

I lived my first two years of college caught in this mindset, though it wasn’t until I moved off campus, into the City House, that I realized it. Slowly, as I participated in the daily rhythms of a community that included people of various ages, personalities, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and life experiences I began to be more aware of stories other than my own. My perspective has shifted…broadened. A new level of awareness of, and compassion towards those around me was awakened in me. The world, now, seems much bigger and more beautiful than before, and there is a comfort in the realization that its not all about me. There is so much more to discover and delight in, if we just take the chance to go beyond the bubble.

 

-Janelle (Resident Director)

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Retreat, Refresh, Recommit: Good times in Aliquippa

 

This past weekend City Housers went on a retreat to Aliquippa to spend time with our friend, Herb Bailey, of the Uncommon Grounds Cafe.

We braved the snow to get there, but were welcomed into the warm cafe and greeted with delicious food while Herb told us the story of the cafe and the town of Aliquippa, another Beaver County steel town.

We were challenged to stop and see, to listen to the stories of the people around us as we acted out the story of the bleeding woman found in Mark 5:21-43 .

After, we went back to the Community of Celebration’s All Saints House, where we were staying for some good old junk food, an intense game of spoons, and a hilarious game of psychiatrist, featuring all of us doing our best impressions of one another.

In the morning we went back to the cafe for a round of big breakfasts and imagined together what the kingdom of God would look like, smell like, sound like, taste like, if it came to Beaver Falls. We, as a group, were moved to engage more deeply in our neighborhood and our city and brainstormed a list of goals we are committed to for the rest of our semester semester.

Thanks to Herb for facilitating our time! It was great to get away and think deeply together about what it means for us, in our particular place, to live as ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

Also, as promised, here is a picture of the chalkboard: now fully operational!

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New Semester!

Happy 2016! Its a new semester full of newness at the City House. The house feels alive again after a quiet break over the holidays, and as students returned they greeted one another with the warmth of familiarity and friendship. We now look back and laugh on the first few weeks when we didn’t know each other yet and felt awkward.

There are two new faces at the the City House this year: Luke and Madelyn, and we are so excited to have them! Students are settling into new schedules and rhythms for the semester ahead. In our class this semester we are studying the importance of Place: why places matter and how we shape them and they, in turn, shape us. We will spend quite a bit of time getting t know our place, Beaver Falls, more intimately as well.

In other news, we have an exciting new addition to our dining room: A wall of blackboard paint! (Pictures to be posted when it’s fully operational!)

Those are the updates for now! Looking forward to sharing some great City House moments with you in the semester ahead!

Practicing Pause

There is a certain magic in pause: when a space is created we can enter into together, stepping away from our own schedules and agendas, suspending them for a moment to be present in a particular time and space with others. In a culture obsessed with constant busyness and movement, and especially in this season of finals, it is a battle to create these kinds of pauses, but I have found that they are necessary to the human soul, both individually and communally.

We at City House have endeavored throughout this past semester to practice pause together. Sometimes we do it better than at other times, but we are learning and growing in our ability to create this space, and I think our love for it is growing as well. One way we practice pause regularly is by eating dinner together. Around the table we share our food and stories from the day and from our lives. We also shared a few intentional retreats together throughout the semester. Most recently we took three hours to sit among piles of blankets and plates of cookies and popcorn in our living room, circled around a cluster of glowing candles, taking turns asking questions of one another to get to know our housemates on a deeper level. In that space, I found that my worries and cares melted away and there was a simple joy in being present in that warm, flickering light with this community I am learning to love deeply.

We are also learning to create pause even in the midst of other activities, to rest in the movement. Sometimes this means delighting in just being together while cooking and serving food at our local soup kitchen. Sometimes it is lounging and chatting in one another’s rooms in between rounds of papers and studying, allowing the thoughts and reflections that are half-buried under stress regarding the onslaught of schoolwork we face to rise to the surface. These are the moments that call us out of survival mentality into a reality in which we as people created for rhythms of work and rest are able to thrive, even in the midst of chaos.

When opportunities for pause arrive, it is tempting push them away, feeling we don’t have time or energy, but when we do embrace them we find that these are the moments that God will use to refresh us and to restore our delight in himself and in all that he calls us to.

-Janelle (Resident Director)

So Much To Be Thankful For

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Happy Thanksgiving!! We recently celebrated with a feast here at City House, and everyone contributed part of the meal, from the turkey to the cranberry sauce to the stuffing to the 4 types of pies, everything was made from scratch by students in our kitchen. It was delicious! As we sat around the table in the glow of our candles, we shared some of the things we are grateful for. Here is a short list of some of the blessings we are especially thankful for this season:

  • A sense of belonging and being at home
  • Friends and teachers that are full of grace
  • God’s faithfulness and provision for us
  • Ten years of City House, and the community and friendship we experience here
  • God’s grace to us: Love, Kindness, Forgiveness, Joy and Peace
  • Real relationships characterized by the freedom to ask questions and be changed
  • Good cooking, and the blessing of sharing the work of our hands with one another around the table.

It is so good for us to be together as a community and to stop and remember how very much we have to be thankful for. Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving!

Student Reflection: Longing for Community

 

Here’s a reflection from City House student Anna Applebee based on a recent class in which we discussed Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Whether we recognize it or not our deepest longing is for this community God has gifted us with. If I have learned anything at all this semester it is this: that just like the rest of the world I too have a deep hunger for community. A hunger that God has placed within me; a deep need to be heard and understood; to share my experiences and triumphs in Christ as well as my failures and short comings. I have come to believe that community is our calling as Christians. I look at so many aspects of the world around me and see the brokenness and hopelessness and feel disheartened. However, I hear people like Noel Castellanos speak and see people like Wendy trying to go out and make an impact no matter how small and I know that not all is lost and community can be the answer; and Jesus; he is the answer too.

On Adventures and Narnia: a Reflection

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about adventure. My reflections on this topic have been mainly inspired by my rereading of The Chronicles of Narnia, and particularly The Silver Chair. In this book, two children, Jill and Eustace, are called by the great lion Aslan into his world of Narnia and sent on a mission to rescue the missing Prince Rillian. They team up with a Marshwiggle named Puddleglum. Jill, unlike the others, is entirely new to adventure. She begins out hopefully, as she and her companions embark on their journey on a fresh, lovely morning on a pleasant moor, observing that perhaps she likes adventure, to which Puddleglum replies, “We haven’t had any yet”. Later in the book, we see Jill wet and cold, hungry and tired, having endured giants hurling boulders at her, and prepared to give up the whole adventure in exchange for hot food, a bed and a bath. This is where we see the real adventure: as often as it is exciting and a bright and shining thing, it is just as often plodding through deep snow and persevering in the quest to which you were called.

The City House experience is a true adventure, full of both joy and difficulty. Like Jill, this year’s students perhaps arrived to the house on that first day full of hopes and the thrill of new beginnings and expectation of realizing the great treasure of Christian community at the end. Like Jill, perhaps they were vaguely aware that challenges would present themselves, but in the moment, they were largely out of sight.

At this point in the semester, we are in the throes of real adventure. Students endure the elements of stress, differences of opinion regarding dishes, busy schedules, and all the heavy weights life can throw at us. Life together is hard and messy but we know that it is worth it, because though the journey is hard, it is the only path by which we arrive at the journey’s end and the joy that awaits us there. Along the way there is yet beauty among the hardship if our eyes are open to see it, and it is in the going that we are transformed. This adventure is not easy, but it is by our Lord and King and Love that we were called to this living-out of Christian community and it is by him that we carry on. Pray for us, friends, for faithfulness to our calling in the fullness of the beautiful and challenging adventure that it is.

-Janelle Almond, Resident Director

Lewis, C. S., and Pauline Baynes. The Silver Chair. New York, NY: HarperTrophy, 1994. Print.