Life in Community

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Life in Community

The Plough Diet: All Things In Common?

June 7, 2016 by

a picture of the Plough Quarterly cover

Each year, it seems, scientists discover yet more ways in which everything – organisms, elements, and the processes they use to interact, not to mention our solar system, galaxy and universe – is intricately, sophisticatedly interconnected. Socially, we’re also supposedly linked to heretofore unimaginable numbers of fellow human beings across multiple platforms and continents. The concept of socialism is back in mainstream political conversations. And a German forester has even discovered that trees have a so-called “Wood Wide Web” through which they can communicate and nurture each other. It’s clear: we need one another. Every one of us is but a miniscule part of a much greater equation.

So why is it that the more we learn about how connected we are, the more fractured our lives and societies seem to become?

Here at the Bruderhof we sing a song, originally by German poet and composer Werner Gneist and masterfully translated somewhere along the way, that sheds some light on the answer:

As the far-flung stars are circling,
full of ceaseless harmony,
so should be our way of living,
ordered and controlled by Thee.
In his great and small creations
God reveals his work and presence.
All creation moves together,
joy its great and glorious song.
Only man will not surrender,
seeks his happiness alone.
Friends, seek now for life’s true meaning,
that this joy invade your being.

Humankind, it would appear, is good at putting its foot into it, selfishly disturbing the harmony of the whole. It doesn’t take much contemplation to realize that we’ve been doing this since the dawn of civilization, “faithfully” aided by the enemy of harmony. Communion with all of creation, and with one another, doesn’t always come naturally to us. Some may get stuck at this realization and give up trying.

But we know that’s only the beginning of the story. God entered into our humanness through his son, Jesus, and paid for every one of our millennia of sins through his suffering and death; his resurrection redeems and sets aright the cosmic order. His final prayer for his followers? “May they all be one” (John 17:21).

How can we rediscover the meaning of that prayer? It will take effort, repentance, and sacrifice – but was there ever anything more deserving of spiritual and physical work? The current issue of Plough Quarterly, All Things in Common? takes a long, hard look at community, profiling intentional Christian communities past and present, gleaning advice on the daily practicalities and pitfalls of communal living from those who have experienced years of it, and challenging every serious disciple – and every person who wants to work for the good – to think more deeply about how we can, again and again, become one.

This is the third post of a series highlighting books and resources available through, the Bruderhof’s publishing house. Read the first and second posts here.


About the author

Erna Albertz

Erna Albertz

Erna Albertz splits her work day between serving as Plough Publishing’s online editor, and accompanying her younger sister...

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  • I can't agree more with your article - I had just this morning listened to a TED talk on mycelium and it's ability to control pests and it's use by trees in exactly that WWW - of inter special nurture - where trees will actually transfer nutrients to one another - no matter the species! With everything starting at the sub-cellular, and growing to become cells, link, strands, chains and then networks - it makes sense that we as humans; who have a substantially close relationship with the make up of fungi (which i also learned was pronounced fun-jy - not fun-guy - wow - who knew, right?) and mycelium, would be interconnected in a cellular fashion - God has designed us to need one another - even so far as needing others from a great distance in space, time and geography. Thank yo for making this links again for me. Greg

    Greg Colby