The Simple Way is celebrating 20 years in 2018! We’re inviting some early members to share their reflections on where these 20 years have led them. This month’s thoughts are from Jessica Shoffner.
You’re not in Kansas anymore! is something I heard often when I first moved to Philadelphia. The transition from rural Kansas to Kensington holds so many memories for me. Summer on Potter Street was full of hot days working in the garden and incredible amounts of hospitality. Being The Simple Way’s garden intern in the summer of 2008 was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve done, but the relationships I built with folks from the neighborhood and my housemates made it all worth it.
Finding commonality with people who were also trying to figure out what it means to have an active faith in our current culture was both encouraging and disappointing. This experience was my first big adventure after college, and it’s only gotten more and more wild! God is doing something redemptive and extravagant everywhere. I just found myself in the currents of it here in Kensington.
For me, 2018 marks ten years in Kensington, and I’ve been reflecting with gratitude. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least. People around me are still struggling with addiction, poverty, and homelessness. Violence is still present and possibly even more so with the heavy divisiveness looming over our world.
We are meant to come together, not continue to separate! I am encouraged by the moments of connection, the boundary crossing, and the times of reconciliation. This work starts within myself: confronting my own prejudices, owning my baggage, and understanding the power of my privilege. I am thankful for the beautiful and kind people with whom I get to do this neighborly work.
I’m grateful to have found spaces – big and small – to garden in the neighborhood since my first summer on Potter Street. Currently, we are tending a nine-lot neighborhood farm! We need help protecting our sacred green space, and ask you to please consider partnering with us. When you’ve grown roots into a place, you can feel that gravity by the relationships you’ve built and the pull of their love. Being outside regularly has given me many opportunities to build relationships over the years.
I am also lucky enough to say that my employment is really where many of my passions collide. I’ve been working at Circle Thrift for over nine years! Circle Thrift is a partnership between Circle of Hope church and the Mennonite Central Committee. Creating a neighborhood hub of energy and love takes a lot of work. The staff and customers at the store are really doing it. We encourage each other to know our customers’ names and stories. Sometimes I’ll admit I’m not in the mood to listen to someone, or my patience is just minimal. I have to stop and ask the Holy Spirit to wake up in me or to move from my heart or depths to my outer body and consciousness.
The reality that we need God and not just each other is true. God is working in this kind of alternative economy. The generative business we have together is truly a miracle. Some of my favorite things about Circle Thrift are finding cool knickknacks (and things you need, too!), building community with regular customers, and sharing the proceeds with our neighbors and people around the world!
God is doing something redemptive and wild everywhere. Be present to it.