Saturday, August 06, 2005

Two shy people from Camden House

Blogging SMC festival 4

The two shyest members of Camden House, Elissa and Melissa, have been sent by their community to tell the SMC festival about their two-year old community.

“We are the shy people in our community. We like being in the background. The rest of our community told us we would do well but we’re a little nervous,” Elissa said as they stood at the microphone.

For seven years a Catholic priest in Camden, New Jersey held on to an abandoned house in his parish, waiting for a religious community to come looking for a place to locate. Perhaps a group of Jesuits or maybe a Catholic worker house.

A handful of 20-something Protestants (and one Catholic) showed up looking for a house to start a community. The priest handed them the keys.

In May they dropped off their gear at the house and went back home with plans to gather in July to launch the community. When they arrived in July all their belongings had been stolen.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

The house across the street openly sells drugs and does prostitution as a service to people who drive in from the suburbs.

Camden House works with the environmental and social degradation of our neighborhood. “We are committed to Christ and committed to each other…it’s a beautiful time together…as we stumble through together,” says Melissa.

Currently the eight people of Camden House all work at jobs outside the house, paid and unpaid.

“Andrea and I do community gardening during the summer…it’s so much fun to introduce people to organic gardening…,” says Melissa. “We have the neighbors do a lot of the work so the rows are a little uneven but it’s beautiful.”

In the sweet understatement of people who follow Jesus, Melissa says, “We live in a culture of mistrust and alienation. Our neighborhood is a dangerous place. Opening up our house and trying to be trusting is important.”

Thus Camden House welcomes the prostitutes and crack addicts who wander over to visit.

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