Why should one live in community? According to the Bruderhof, it’s no less than an imperative from God: “We must live in community because all life created by God exists in a communal order and works toward community.” But what if you’re drawn to this kind of living for reasons other than religious conviction?
Communal living didn’t die with the 60s. It’s alive and well today, though in many cases it looks vastly different than it used to. That’s true even for the Bruderhof. The spiritual underpinning remains a constant, but from a practical standpoint, life on a contemporary Hof looks very different from what I experienced as a boy. The biggest settlements are now in the US and they earn far more money manufacturing wooden pay equipment than they ever did raising cattle, logging, and coaxing produce from the land at Primavera. The changes came soon after our departure.
Still, their belief around God remains the central unifying factor, as it does for many other intentional communities. But not for all. You don’t have to look far to find other ideals that serve as the central motivation for living in community: sustainability, global peace, creativity, and a slew of others. The communities vary in shape and form, too, from scattered dwellings (like we had on the Bruderhof) to ecovillages to ranch houses in the middle of the suburbs.
I wonder what Ray would have made of a fairly recent development: the UU Community Cooperatives. According to the UU website, these are “intentional housing communities of spiritual practice, sustainability, and social change.” I can’t help but think that Ray could have had it both ways: the community he craved, centered around a set of spiritual beliefs he shared. For more about these cooperatives, look here.