ABOUT OUR LIFE TOGETHER
A LIFE TOGETHER is an ever growing network of friends and ministries, vagabonds and vagrants, sinners and saints alike who are in the pursuit of a life shaped by the mercy of God. Birthed and rooted in the margins of Cape Town, South Africa within the wider body of YWAM, Muizenberg, we are a collective of voices from many corners of the world all seeking to live into God's dream of a reconciled world!
Our hearts and passions live at the intersection of reconciliation, intentional community and radical discipleship in the way of Jesus. We welcome you to write yourself into our story.
A LIFE TOGETHER as COUNTER CULTURE
Over the years we have come to realize that Intentional Christian Community is much more than just a random gathering of people who profess to believe that God came to dwell among us. Our aim for A Life Together is not to simply foster community for community’s sake, but to intentionally explore the building blocks of what we think is a rather PARTICULAR and somewhat PECULIAR kind of community. A community whose very culture is a living and breathing expression of Christ’s own body at work in the world.
The following culture pieces are a hint of what we believe such communities should strive for. As a whole these - A Life Together Cultural Values - represent a shared journey towards a particular way of living into the world. A way of living, which we pray, takes seriously the motif of Jesus’s life and teachings, His death and resurrection and the historical movement known as Church, which followed. It’s a vision of a reconciled world and the tangible presence of God. These culture pieces are NOT self-evident or uniform in their definition, nor are they something we can simply adopt and say, “well done”… they are both a means and the ends. The horizon and the wind. These are culture pieces that we as A Life Together are learning to live into and champion new communities to embrace.
A CULTURE OF ACCEPTANCE & BELONGING -
Let us live ourselves into a new way of believing.
Far too often, when we think of belief and belonging, we have put the carriage before the horse in our pursuit of defining Christian community. We have made it a place where belonging is defined by mutual belief, instead of by shared experience. WE BELIEVE AND THUS WE BELONG, or so it’s often said… and in the process, sadly, those who often are MOST in need of a place to call home feel no sense of welcome among us.
In contrast, as A Life Together we are pursuing a culture of ACCEPTANCE & BELONGING, believing that God welcomes us AS WE ARE and WHERE WE ARE. We are seeking to build a community where people belong before they believe. Right belief after all, in the Christian sense, is only possible in the context of shared life and shared sacrament. Thus HOSPITALITY becomes for us as a sacrament in it’s own right, and is the means by which we manifest the beliefs we hold. A Life Together holds to a deep seeded cultural value, which says EVERYTHING & EVERYONE BELONGS.
A CULTURE OF SAFETY & VULNERABILITY -
Safe space is hard won, but utterly necessary for growth and healing. It comes from communal buy in to remove judgment and check comparison at the door. As A Life Together we believe in a culture of safety and vulnerability, which for us means no question is off limits, no struggle is taboo and no tension is too difficult to overcome. We recognize that vulnerability takes courage and that our vulnerability is a gift to the community. In that way vulnerability can never be compulsory… it’s never something we can demand of another. It’s an expression of mutual trust, self-awareness and a commitment to honestly. It takes time… but it’s also contagious!
Voluntary vulnerability in community stirs on a deeper honesty among members, which in turn creates safe space.
This is fundamental for communal LEADERSHIP. As A Life Together desire to develop people who lead out in vulnerability and who can learn to steward safe space. That stewardship is an essential function of leaders in community. To honor and orchestrate safe space so the community can thrive in an authentic way.
Historically many have sought to develop safety in community by concealing and hiding their “shadow self” or the “shadow parts” of an institution. Often that has been done with good intentions, however we think it’s ill informed. Withholding and hiding our brokenness in community, even when doing so with the care of the community in mind, will seldom create safe space. A community will take on the cultural space of those who help lead it, which is why we desire to develop leaders who lead in their “woundedness.”
A CULTURE OF LOVE & INTENTIONALITY -
You cannot LOVE that which you do not KNOW. Thus, relational rootedness is the context in which we move from good-intentions (which often fall short) towards actual love of neighbor and self. As A Life Together, we believe that relationships are the economy through which we all come alive and through which any ministry must flow.
Community is sustained not by classy vision statements, but by the intentional pursuit of relationship and acts of genuine love. Thus we encourage self-motivated, mutually transformative relationships wherever and whenever possible.
This is true beyond the blurry boarders of intentional community as well. We agree with Mother Teresa when she says, “the problem with the Church is not that they don’t care about the poor, but that they don’t KNOW the poor.” Our acts of service to a hurting world will not bring about reconciliation until we move from a charity mentality to a solidarity mentality.
Intentional relationships open doorways for love to flow beyond any scope of charity. We believe we need more relationships, not just better strategies. More intentional love, not just acts of service. In this way reconciliation becomes the building block for authentic community.
A CULTURE OF WHOLENESS & HUMANNESS -
We are living in a time of rapid connectivity and tremendous dislocation. More than ever technology and the internet have opened up new paradigms of communication and connection, yet for some reason we have coupled our ability to connect on a global scale with the dislodging of our persons from any rooted community. We are more connected and yet lonelier… We see the world, but have lost ourselves.
Technology can give birth to a feeling of intense social connection, while keeping us safely at a distance form the mess of real relationships… but we believe those messes are the contours in which we grow and in which God dwells.
On an individual level, we also recognize that we are living in a time of unprecedented mind/body dislocation. It seems like our “interior” and “exterior” selves are becoming more and more difficult to reconcile and share with the world. We have the “person” we project to our community and neighbor and then we have our “true-self” who lives somewhere deep inside of us. That dislocation creates an enormous amount of stress and anxiety, because fundamentally we all desire to share our lives with one another.
As A Life Together we want to reaffirm the inherent value of being human. The gospel should make us MORE ALIVE and MORE HUMAN not less. This is why we believe one of the principled works of discipleship is to reclaim our humanity created as we all are in the image of God.
A CULTURE OF CONTEMPLATION & ACTION -
“What is the relation of contemplation to action? Simply this. He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas. There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action.” - Thomas Merton
An oft-neglected reality of the communal and mission centered life, is that we MUST learn to root strong social engagement in a deep spirituality or we’ll crash and burn. Some of us feel more at home when we are active and socially engaged, working with the poor and fighting injustice… others of us feel at home in the prayer room, developing deep rhythms of spiritual formation and cultivating intimacy with God through prayer, worship and fasting. As A Life Together we believe that our social engagement must be coupled with a depth of spiritual practice capable of sustaining our lives in missions.
“Contemplative Activism combines two ideas, the first one being the essential art of drawing aside with God for prayer, and learning how to find Him in every aspect of life. Contemplative experience provides a door to discovering so much more about ourselves, each other, God, and His ways. However there is a danger having ascended the heights through Contemplation, that we may not want to return and make our descent back into the streets of chaos within which we are called to carry out the mission of God. Therefore, we seek to live out prayer by rolling up our sleeves and serving the needs of the surrounding community. The Contemplative Activist develops this rhythm of ascent and descent in living the Spirit filled life.” - Axiom Global Monastic Community
A CULTURE OF FORGIVENESS & REMEMBERING -
“There is no future without forgiveness” - Desmond Tutu
Forgiveness is the starting line on any road of true reconciliation. It is a powerful action, which frees those hurt from the compiling pain, violation and injustice and opens a door for reconciliation and reconnection to those who have perpetuated the pain. In an age of vengeance and recycled revenge, forgiveness is a radical break from the norm, which brings to life NEW POSSIBILITIES.
For those of us seeking to follow Jesus, it is also a central ethic in the gospel life. As a continuing practice in our communities and relationships it bares witness to a God who has forgiven and is reconciling all things onto Himself by the blood of the cross. From the words uttered at Calvary, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” an invitation is awoken in the world to break the cycles of vengeance and building peace through the extension of forgiveness and grace.
Forgiveness is a doorway to reconciliation and reconnection of relationship, but the memories of pain linger. The act of remembering is just as vital to the act of forgiveness when we are talking about the work of reconciliation. Remembering the violence in our communities, remembering the relationships we have lost, remembering the historic injustice that shapes our world… that intentionality to remember together refuses to allow history to repeat itself. It has the potential to bring dignity back to where dignity has been stolen and it refuses to let death have the last word. A new world is at our fingertips and as A Life Together we believe that nothing lays beyond the possibility of redemption.
A CULTURE OF SUFFERING & JOY -
As A Life Together we seek to embrace the full spectrum of our human experience with God. We desire to be a community that knows how to throw a party and a funeral, how to sing and lament, how to practice joy and embrace suffering. As we seek to imitate the life of Christ in community that means embracing his childlike joy and wedding feast shenanigans and his weeping over Jerusalem.
We agree with Saint Irenaeus of Lyon when he says, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” FULLY ALIVE! Thus we seek to cultivate a culture which can hold in tandem both joy and suffering.
A CULTURE OF AWARENESS & STEWARDSHIP -
“We pray for the poor, then we feed the poor - that’s how prayer works.” - Pope Francis
To foster a culture of awareness and stewardship means a commitment to being awake. To open our eyes, ears and hearts to reality and refuse to retreat into self-deception. Awareness is fundamentally about being an active learner… a learner of culture and community, people and privilege, love and regret. It’s about actively pursuing a deeper understand of God, the world and our place within it.
Awareness is about creating space for the BIG questions and about learning to wrestle and struggle well. Our prayer is that A Life Together would be a place where no questions are off limits and no subjects too taboo to wrestle through. We want to be awake to the reality of our world and each other and learn to love with intention.
Stewardship, of course, is the only ethical response to waking up to reality. As we learn and grow we are handed a depth of responsibility in community to steward our awareness with an active response. As we become more and more mindful to the needs of those around us and more and more awakened to the suffering in the world, we are encouraged to cultivate a spirit of compassion and to participate in God’s plan of healing and shalom.
A CULTURE OF WORSHIP & LAMENT -
“In the end, beauty will save the world.” - Dostoyevsky
From liturgy and Eucharist to healing prayer and praise, A Life Together seeks to champion a culture of worshipful response to the mercies of God. In an age of isolation and hyper individualism it is our prayer lives and communal worship which help to reaffirm the “our” of the Our Father. For few things foster community more than a collective glance at the Divine.
We believe that God is good and just and full of love and we desire to respond to that love with gratitude and creative beauty. Yet, we also recognize that while God is good and just and full of love, the world and our experience of it often aren’t. Set in that context, worship can become a powerful form of communal confession, a recognition that we are all deeply in need of a Healer.
God is present, but so is suffering and as we walk in communion with those who suffer our lament and praise become like a "voice crying out in the wilderness" for another world and another way. A voice grounded firmly in the tension and violence of our world, choosing to see it as it really is, while still trusting stubbornly in the reality of Resurrection. Like grass wiggling it's way through the cracks of concrete, worship, at its core is the affirmation that the concrete slab is bound to break and give way to something new. Something BEAUTIFUL!
So let us sing… because we’re singing for our lives.
In the end, it is the ebb and flow of worship and lament, prayer and praise, silence and celebration that connect us to one another and to the Author of Life.
A CULTURE OF UNITY & DIVERSITY -
“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” - Rainer Maria Rilke
There is a South African term that has been instrumental in its people’s difficult journey in search of reconciliation - that word is UBUNTU. Western languages have no equivalent for Ubuntu, a word that expresses the essence of humanity and its interconnectedness. In some ways it has become shorthand for the Zulu proverb, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” which can be translated roughly as, “A person is a person because of other people.” What affects one affects others, and this matters because our humanity - our being - is deeply dependent on one another.
As A Life Together, we are pursuing a culture of UNITY in our DIVERSITY. This is a hard task! Seeking communion without mandating sameness - living out an ethic of love which lets each individual become MORE themselves and MORE alive as we deepen the bonds between us. Fostering unity in diversity takes a persistent recognition that God’s love lives far beyond our worldview and cultural norms. A recognition that we are bound together, wrapped up in the same human fabric.
At it’s best moments, we believe also the Church can be a beautiful witness to this unity in diversity. We are a body after all, full of uniqueness and difference, yet the same blood flows through our veins. Fact is, we need the fire of the Pentecostals, the imagination of the Mennonites, the Lutherans' love for scripture, the Benedictines' discipline, the wonder of the Catholics and Orthodox. We are BODY!
As a cultural value for A Life Together, championing UNITY while holding fast to and recognizing the God breathed value of our DIVERSITY, lives front and center in our pursuit of a reconciled world.