Living in Christian Community

This is the first in a series of five articles in our Life Together summer series. Alumni tell us that makes the John Jay Institute so unique is the combination of five key components, the first of which is Living in Christian Community.

Prior to joining us at Fairview Manor, our Fellows are sent copies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous 1938 work, Life Together. In these pages, Bonhoeffer discusses his experiences leading and living with 25 seminarians with the intention of forming a Christian Community.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer writes the following:

"The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity.”

The John Jay Institute seeks to develop a similar type of community.

We draw together a diverse group of people with different confessions, political leanings, and geographic traditions. These differences can be a potential source of disagreement and conflict. However, the posture of our Fellows is one of commitment to a community grounded in Christ. It is through this commitment that the John Jay Fellowship, much like Bonhoeffer’s community, is at its best, where these differences “recede” and unity is established. Unity in Christ.

For a clearer picture of what that looks like at John Jay,  take a moment to read the following piece by a recent John Jay alumna.

Living in Christian Community at the John Jay Institute
By Alexandra Nieuwsma

Alexandra Nieuwsma, Spring 2018 John Jay Fellow, graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Political Science.

Alexandra Nieuwsma, Spring 2018 John Jay Fellow, graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Political Science.

A central aspect of the John Jay experience is living in Christian community. When I applied to the program, my primary attraction was to the academic portion. I was excited to dig deeper into political theory and philosophy, but was a little uncertain what it would be like living with seven other people whom I had never met before! Little did I know that a few short months later, I would come away feeling that the communal living aspect of the program had been just as meaningful and memorable to me as the academic portion. I am confident that I will treasure the relationships I forged at John Jay the rest of my life.

The unique environment of the John Jay fellowship is ideal for the fostering of deep friendships. Every day is framed with evening and morning prayer. Working together to prepare weekly teas for the local community and dinners for outside guests creates an atmosphere of growing comradery. After just a few weeks, I felt a closeness to some of the fellows that normally would have taken months to develop. I found myself surrounded by a group of people who were almost like a second family to me after having been complete strangers only a month before! There is a uniqueness in the intentionality of these relationships and the recognition that we are all taking part in the fellowship experience together.

Of course, communal living is not without difficulties. There have been disagreements between fellows and, in shared spaces, the tragedy of the commons can be an issue. Achieving harmony takes effort, but is extremely rewarding. The inconveniences habituate you into considering the concerns of others and being conscious of how your behavior and habits may affect them.

Living Together in Christian Community is truly formative for spiritual growth and character, and enables a greater understanding of ones other’s viewpoints and beliefs. The philosophical conversations do not stop after a seminar is over; many an afternoon have I spent discussing the merits of classical liberalism over a cup of tea in the kitchen, or the thought of John Calvin in the living room. I am truly thankful to have the unique privilege of sharing a home with individuals who, while they may slightly differ in faith backgrounds, share a common Christian confession, care deeply about the “big ideas” of this world, and seek to make a positive difference in society.

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