Manna House: What is It?

It’s interesting that I felt the need to change my LVC-focused blog, now that I’ve moved away from DC.  Truth is, my summer is more of an LVC lifestyle than my past couple years have been!  After living here in the Twin Cities now for over two weeks, it’s high time I fill you in on where and with whom I’m living…

To put it simply, I’m living with 6 other people in a house in St. Paul.  One of them, Kristen, was one of my roommates in LVC!  She’s how I got connected with their intentional community – a fascinating place to stay with incredible people…and super affordable on top of it all.  Kristen moved into this house almost a year ago, along with Ashley, Peter, and Joanna.  The four of them, inspired by the work of Dorothy Day and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, dreamt of starting an intentional community that would reach out to the neighborhood.  Viewing their neighbors as brothers and sisters, they hoped to create a welcoming community where anyone could come in for a meal, or find a safe place to stay.  So through a few connections, they got hooked up with First Lutheran Church in St. Paul (Dayton’s Bluff).

FLC owns a house right next door to the church and offered it to the eager college/LVC grads at a low cost in exchange for help at the church.  So Kristen, Ashley, Peter, and Joanna (all Augsburg College grads) moved in, August 2010, naming their house the Manna House (manna, from the Old Testament, means “what is it?”).  In the last year, they’ve infused the older congregation with a new energy, teaching Sunday School, helping with their Wellness Center, starting a community garden, and many other things.  This, of course, is all in addition to the other full-time aspects of their lives!

Kristen works full time for the YMCA, doing child-care.  Ashley works full time for Goodwill, helping people find jobs, and other skill-building.  Peter is about to enter his second year at Luther Seminary, on track to receive a Masters of Divinity; he is busy this summer doing interviewing and research for some of the seminary profs.  Joanna is entering her last year at Luther Seminary and will receive a Masters of Arts in Theology; she’s also working full time at the East African Women’s Center.

Over the last year, Manna House has welcomed other short-term residents.  In addition to myself, there are two other guests: Rick – a fifty-some-year-old man who’s new to the area from Chicago, and Matt – Ashley’s 19-year-old brother who will be starting school in the fall.  The 7 of us share 3 rooms – Ashley and Peter (who are newly engaged) are in one room, Rick and Matt share bunk beds in another, and Joanna, Kristen, and myself each have single beds in the upstairs loft.  We eat dinner together every night – vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free (with the exception of eggs).  We garden together, play with the neighborhood children, and help out at the church.  I say “we”, but it really is all still new for me.

One of the reasons I was drawn to the possibility of living with Kristen and company is that it would be an immediate network for me.  Since I’m here for such a short period of time, I was excited about being welcomed into a community and having opportunities at my fingertips.  I called Kristen a few days before I moved out here and asked her what other things I should know that I haven’t asked.

She said, “Well, there are a couple things you should know.  First… we have 4 chickens.  And they live in our kitchen.  And another thing… there’s this older lady at the church named Arlene.  She LOVES us, and she will love you.  And you’ll think, ‘This can’t be real.’ And it is.”

They were good warnings.  Excellent ones, in fact.  This place and my experiences here so far are full of those kinds of overwhelming gifts.  For example.  One of the things I love about sharing a room with Kristen and Joanna is that it’s like having a slumber party every night.  And one of the things I hate about it is that it’s like having a slumber party every night.  Know what I mean?  Community is such a beautiful mess… I’ve forgotten some of this stuff post-LVC.  But it’s a joy to re-learn and get involved!  One thing’s for sure – this summer will be an adventure…

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