2021 House Journal

December 15th, 2021

The Center for the Working Poor was founded in 2006, but we didn’t move into our large Victorian house until 2007. Therefore, we have been in the house for 14 years now; and throughout this time, only Paul Engler has been part of the community the whole time. We’ve had people who have spent many years in the community, like Sam Pullen, who act as pillars that provided stability while they were here, but eventually moved out to form a family, or to pursue another vocation. We are honored that most everyone we have lived with has left on good terms, and many come back to visit. Normally, enough of the older members of the community stay, so that even if one pillar leaves, we maintain a sense of stability and continuity. Much like a flame, or a stream, or even our bodies, where every single individual cell dies and is replaced, but the larger body maintains all of its functions, and even its appearance. However, this year there has been so much change that it has felt like the survival of the whole body has been threatened.

This year was hard for me personally, and our whole community has been shaken up from people coming and leaving, from illness and death, from many challenging transitions. One unexpected gift that times of instability can bring is that they can help us to recognize what’s most important in life. Times like this can help us to see clearly where our true stability and deepest nourishment comes from. We see and feel with fresh urgency and vitality our interdependence with our communities–our intimate friendships, our families, and all the other communities in which we work, worship, and live our lives.

One of those stable forces in our community has been Sara Kurtz, who was with us more than five years. Sara moved out this year, into a house closer to her work and to her church community. Sara has been investing more of her time into leadership at the Beloved Everybody Church. Beloved Everybody Church was founded by Bethany McKenney-Fox who has been a leader in our Centering Prayer group, and has created a very innovative approach to creating a deep sense of community with developmentally disabled adults at the Church. Beloved Everybody community finds inspiration from the L’Arche communities, and Father Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries, among many others. Sara’s daily presence in our community will be deeply missed, although we will look forward to her visits to our weekly Centering Prayer meeting.

Danielle Raskin is still with us after spending three months this year with her mother in New York City. Danielle’s dad died this year after decades of struggling with MS. Danielle has since been seeking consolation with her family and friends. She has transitioned out of the intense responsibility and pressure of her organizing job with IfNotNow, and has gotten a new job with a food truck called Yeastie Boys Bagels. We now receive free bagels, which is a very happy addition to our dietary regime, as well as the kombucha, bread, kimchi, and ice cream Danielle prepares in her free time.

Judy Esber and Brandon Youndt have again rejoined our pod during Coronavirus and are now participating in our five-nights-a-week communal meals. Judy has continued to develop her small business that provides financial coaching for women and couples who need support in learning how to become debt-free and financially secure. This year, Judy has bravely challenged herself in many inspiring ways to get out of the house to travel, camp, and build community, in contrast to the prior year of being isolated and trapped by Coronavirus. Brandon has just flown back to his home in rural Pennsylvania to support his family–his unvaccinated father has died after contracting Coronavirus and his mother and grandmother are now in the hospital as well. Please send prayers for Brandon and his family.

This year the community has been blessed by the addition of three new members! Judy has commented that she now sees more people sitting around playing board games, eating and talking in the living room than normal. It even seems like we all like each other! We have been joined by Hanna Utkin and Garret Allen. Hanna is a very dedicated independent filmmaker, who just completed a short film that she is entering into film festivals across the country. She also has experience living in multiple intentional communities, and even spent a week in a Buddhist meditation retreat before she got here. Garret has made a unique transition from three years in a Ph.D. Philosophy program at the University of Chicago to being an insightful and reflective preschool teacher. He has written an interesting piece reflecting on this transition for Symposeum Magazine, that you can read here.

Nate Jahiel joined the community in the late summer. He is a wonderful housemate, with an incredibly joyous and curious energy. He identifies as a 7 on the Enneagram. Nate holds a degree in Art from UCLA and is dedicated to pursuing his craft as a painter. He also works as a studio assistant for other professional artists. He is currently using his many talents to create a design and proposal for a sauna in our backyard.

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