By Miriam Illman-White
Since September of this year, I have been living at Faith House, an intentional interfaith community in Ottawa. There are seven young adults of different faith traditions living under one roof, engaging in intentional community work.
In the past two and a half months I have learned many things about myself and about what it means to live in an intentional community. Living with six other people with different experiences and backgrounds can be very challenging as well as incredibly life giving. Anytime you have seven people sharing living space and responsibilities you are bound to have some degree of tension over doing the dishes or leaving the toilet seat up. The support and inspiration I receive from my roommates, however, is what I will remember for the rest of my life. At Faith House we are as intentional about our work in the community as we are committed to checking in on one another, sharing our values and sharing our faith.
We have been living together for less than three months and we already feel safe in voicing our concerns about our individual lives, futures, and our concerns for the world. I have had meaningful conversations about life, love, faith, self-esteem, politics and how all these things intersect with each of my roommates. The fact that we have built this trust and safety in such a short time is really exciting. Expressing the concerns closest to your heart can be intimidating and vulnerability is scary; when you feel safe, however, being open can be a liberating experience.
My roommates not only try to create a safe space for people of all walks of life as a community, they are also incredibly inspiring individuals. Each has their own worldview, talents, struggles, and passions, and each one inspires me to keep working for a more just world.
This past week our intentional reflection prompt was, “What inspires you to lead?” At first we had many current affairs jokes such as, “Poor leadership inspires me to lead, looking at you Mr. Mayor of Toronto!” But then we delved into more serious contemplation. I missed the house meeting where everyone shared their responses, but I know what I would have said.
My community, my family, and my housemates inspire me to lead, watching each of them reach for their goals, striving to make the world a more just place. One of my roommates is incredibly passionate about buying local produce and products. Another is passionate about eco-friendly technologies. The third is passionate about gender equality. The fourth is passionate about stopping destructive Canadian mining in other countries. The fifth is passionate about mental health.
The sixth is passionate about global development. While their focuses and faith traditions differ, their passions all intersect and are rooted in a call for social and environmental justice. My experiences at Faith House have brought me closer to my own faith as I lead and follow in humble devotion and am surrounded by inspiration. Although living in community can be difficult, it is definitely worth it.
This article was originally featured in Ottawa’s Citizen for Public Justice’s (CPJ) the Catalyst: Winter 2013, Vol. 36, No. 3. CPJ promotes public justice in Canada by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing and public dialogue.