Life in Community

work • simplicity • education
caring • fulfillment • celebration

Life in Community

Why You Should Enjoy Your Work

February 8, 2018 by

Later this month Plough will be celebrating the publication of Water at the Roots, a collection of poems and insights from Philip Britts. Philip joined the Bruderhof in England in the 1940s. He was inspired by Eberhard Arnold’s vision for a future community of humankind where work was to be an expression of people’s love and joy rather than drudgery and stress. I have always loved Philip’s down-to-earth imagery of physical work and sweat coupled with a soaring spirit: “my feet firm on the earth and my heart in the sky.” Those words are invigorating because even in inspired intentional community, life can become routine. I sometimes get stressed (usually a result of self-made pressure) and lose sight of the joy of living together in Christian community. Philip’s poems and Arnold’s essays can help refocus and re-inspire.

The following paragraphs are taken from a lecture Arnold gave in Hannover in November 1923:

Human life leads us to relationships formed by working together, to the activities of life in a group, in a joyful affirmation of everything that lives. This natural relationship arises through the power of the spirit of love, which is the mystery of everything living. From the very beginning people have been aware of the mystery of God and of divine life, and have felt the inner necessity to belong together in community. The earliest peoples were so filled with this instinctive feeling of the power of God – of this community of life – that no special privileges or personal possessions could arise among them.

The Jewish prophets stepped forward in the certainty that they were inspired by the living God, that they were filled with the purity of love and of the spirit. That is why they called people to search their hearts and to build up something new. They proclaimed a new order in which the God of light would triumph over the god of darkness. They asserted that this people will become a messianic kingdom, will begin a new political order on this earth with true love, true community, and true unity among all the people. This new order will have a leader: the Messiah. His spirit alone will be able to lead people into this communal life.

Our present life must actively demonstrate the productivity of the future. We live in a declining civilization because the essence of culture is lacking: the spirit linking people together, the spirit that surges up from the inner soul and inspires physical work.

Image of two young men working in a wood shop

People should enjoy their work. The soul should be involved in all that occupies the hands; everything should be done in relation to the infinite, to the eternal. Everything physical should become heavenly, should bring joy and exultation. The deadly, dull cities should become garden cities. Physical work should alternate with mental work. Everything should be owned in common. This will enliven the old proclamation of the prophets that the spirit will be poured out on all flesh.

That is how Christ depicted the coming kingdom of God. He calls us to leave everything and to follow his way. Anyone who takes the name of Christ is claiming to believe in and live out the communal nature of the future order in all economic, political, and social conditions. He is to free himself from all attachments that contradict this righteousness.

People should enjoy their work. The soul should be involved in all that occupies the hands. Everything should be done in relation to the infinite, to the eternal.

The spirit of love was so real in the early church that it overcame private property. When the Spirit was poured out the same patterns and relationships arose as when Jesus and his disciples walked together. Possessions were shared. Doors were opened. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

Through the Spirit everything can be born anew. In this communal way of life there is no talk of human rights or legal rights; rather there is a free urge to share one’s wealth. Communities of work are being formed today – the church cannot die. Truth cannot be defeated. Spirit is eternal and unending. Life is stronger than death.

The church was not able to keep to its true character. It gave way to mammon, to lies, to impurity, to moralism, to false ceremonial presentations. Work became more and more soul-destroying. But the church never died out completely. Its original form has been revived in every century.

We too can begin now, if we have the courage. In many places already there are such communities, independent of the oppressive power of mammon. I have the joy of belonging to such a group.


About the author

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel, an author with a particular interest in Bruderhof history, writes a regular blog post featuring timely...

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