Radical Encounters: Finding and Forming Community in the 21st Century --2007

is a 3 credit undergraduate course on RELIGION and COMMUNITY with a 9 day residency at Mt. Saviour Monastery, Elmira, New York from Monday, May 28 (evening) thru Thursday, June 7, 2007 (noon).

Faculty Coordinators: Gail Mandell, St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame IN <gmandell@saintmarys.edu>; Mary Skinner, Empire State College <Mary.Skinner@esc.edu>  and Trude de Jong, Elmira College <tdejong@stny.rr.com> Faculty Associates: Suzanne Wilcox, Manhattan College, Susan St. John-Jarvis, Corning Community College, and session leaders as listed below.

In our divided world, many of us long for an experience of community that enables us to use our creative gifts of mind, body and spirit to support shared values and pursue compassionate goals. How can we discover authentic historic communities as well as attractive and vital communities in the contemporary world and what can they teach us about forming our own living communities? “Radical Encounters” brings together young people for nine days of meditation, study, dialogue and experience of community. Guided by teachers and mentors from various faith traditions, participants will study models of and explore insights into community from diverse spiritual and cultural perspectives and interview and visit significant contemporary communities.

The Radical Encounters Experience helps students to understand the essential elements of human intentional community through exposure to a number of variously structured communities, through personal reflection, through dialogue with the other participants and through reading.  The specific goals are:

o   To gain an appreciation of the role that community can play in energizing and supporting individual gifts.

o   To visit several diverse communities in order to understand important components of community.

o   To read some theoretical works in order to have an intellectual framework for the experiences.

o   To better understand one’s own spiritual journey and search for community.

o   To reflect on one’s current and future lifestyle in the light of community experiences.

Radical Encounters is structured in three parts:

1.  Assigned reading and a short essay to prepare for the Residency

2.  Full participation in the residency from May 28 (5 p.m.) through June 7 (lunch), 2007 keeping a journal on one’s reading and experiences to draw from in the preparation of a final essay.

3.  A short essay (ca 10 pages) on an aspect of religion and community based on one’s reading and personal participation (due June 15).


PART 1. Preparation for the Residency

The participants are requested to bring the following anthologies to the residency from their local bookstore or college library. Selected chapters are assigned from each for particular sessions and evening discussions as indicated below. Short chapters of other books and journals will be copied and distributed during the week. It would be helpful to read ahead if possible because study time during the residency is somewhat limited. We will have a reserve shelf for borrowing required and recommended reading for those who need it.


Susan Love Brown, Intentional Community; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Commitment and Community; Dorothy Bass Practicing our Faith; Dorothy Day. Loaves and Fishes; Jean Vanier, Community and Growth;  (revised edition); The Rule of St. Benedict (at the monastery).  


Prior to attending the Radical Encounters experience students are to prepare a 1-2 page essay on the subject “What is Community?” reflecting on experiences of community in their own lives. 

PART 2. Residency: Each day there will be two academic sessions (OR A FIELD TRIP) and time during the evening for study and informal discussion of the reading, presentations and field trips. (please see the schedule that follows) Relevant Community Experiences include:

Ø  The Benedictine community of monks at Mount Saviour Monastery

Ø  Peace Weavers:  Buddhist/Native American-inspired community committed to stewardship of the earth.

·        The Catholic Worker community and Loaves and Fishes,    two overlapping communities that offer hospitality and work for social justice in Ithaca.

Ø  Tibetan Buddhist monastic community, founded by the Dalai Lama. 

Ø  Transfiguration Monastery of Camaldolese Benedictine nuns in Windsor, NY.


Daily Life at Mt. Saviour Monastery in which all are invited to participate in order to understand monastic community.


           7:00 am         Lauds/Morning Prayer in the Chapel          

           7:30 am         Breakfast at St. Gertrude’s & in the Conference Room

           8:15 am         Meditation in Crypt (Centering or Zen Meditation)

9:00 am          Worship Service in the Chapel

10:00-12:00    Morning Session in the Conference Room

12:30 pm       Main Meal (usually at St. Gertrude’s House)

                       Rest, study or work with monks

3:00-5:00 pm Afternoon Session in the Conference Room

5:30 pm         Supper in the Conference Room

6:30 pm         Vespers/Evening Prayer in the Chapel

7:00-8:00        Evening Discussion

8:15 pm         Compline/Night Prayer in Chapel & Crypt

            Monks keep the Great Silence until the following morning.




Day of the




May 28


Morning Session

10 am to noon




 Afternoon Session

3 to 5 pm


Arrive in the afternoon.

Evening Session

7 to 8 pm


5 pm. Light supper

Introductions to the program, our community & life at the monastery.

Tuesday, May 29

Introductions to one another; sharing our essays and experiences of community

Introduction to Centering Prayer (Fr. Martin) and Tai Chi (Trude deJong)

View and discuss the film “The Everyday” about

 Mt. Saviour Monastery

Wednesday, May 30

8:15 Centering Prayer

Communities Past: Choosing an early Christian Community – a simulation game defending the life-style of your community (Mary Skinner)

Benedictine Traditions of Work Study and Prayer – then and now

(Father Martin Boler)

Informal discussion of the assigned reading

Bass, Ch. 3, 5, 8 & 9

Kanter, Ch. 2

Vanier, Ch. 2

“Rule of St. Benedict”

and background handout.


Thursday, May 31

8:15   Centering Prayer


Community Discussion

How are we doing so far?



The value, role & process of journaling (Suzanne Wilcox).

followed by Tai Chi with Trude de Jong


Art and Community Hands-on Workshop with local artist. Robert Ivers


Friday, June 1


8:15 Centering Prayer

Field Trip to Ithaca

Lunch with Loaves and Fishes. Walk or swim in a gorge at a state park.

Meeting with Catholic Workers


sation with Tibetan Buddhist monks

Dinner at a Thai Restaurant and return to Mt. Saviour

Saturday, June 2

8:15 Zen and walking meditation led by

Patricia Cunningham

 Psychosocial Dynamics of Community especially the concept of “Belonging” led by Deborah Allen, social worker.

Profile of five Emmaus Experience Weekends: Have we formed community?

5 p.m. Swimming and 7 p.m. cook out at Mary Skinner’s house with  Emmaus Experience Participants.

Sunday, June 3


8:15 Zen and walking meditation




Monday, June 4


8:15 Centering Prayer

Sunday worship and coffee hour with the Mt. Saviour community and friends






Social Dimensions of Healthy Community. Exploration of interpersonal relationships in community with Sociologist, Susan St. John-Jarvis



Visit to the Peace Weavers

Community, Bath NY.  Talking Stick Circle, drumming, swimming and other activities.


Choosing a 19th century Utopian Community.  Interview “representatives” of the Shakers, Mormons and Oneida Community (Gail, Mary and guest)


Open discussion of reading and experiences

Bass, Ch. 2 & 11

Kotler III & V (handout)

Dorothy Day, “Loaves and Fishes,” Part I



Evening Rehearsal of

African American Gospel

Music with the Reconciliation Choir


Tuesday, June 5


8:15 Centering Prayer

Creativity and Community – a tour of the art and architecture of the monastery.  (Brother Gabriel)

Communities in Other Cultures (Trude de Jong)  followed by Tai Chi

Open discussion of reading and experiences

Kanter, Ch. 1

Brown, Ch. 1, 2 & 4

Bass, Ch. 13

and handouts

Wednesday, June 6







June 7


 Discuss our ideals of community; sharing of journals; reflections on exploring communities and our week-long community.



Conclusions and evaluations of the week’s experience & discussion of proposed final essays.

Field trip to Windsor, NY to Transfiguration Monastery for Vespers, supper and discussion of monastic life for women with Sister Donald Corcoran.

Open Discussion

Kanter, Ch. 7

Brown, Ch. 8

Vanier, Ch. 1

Mandell, Madeleva

8:30  Celebration



Mon. Evening 5/28 Exploring Community

Introductions – Introduction to the Radical Encounters Experience and the activities of our week together. How do we propose to form community?

Who or what do you think embodies “true community” in your experience? What do you hope to gain from this experience?


Tues. Morning 5/29

Describe yourself, your institutions, your experiences of community, and your interest in community. Students will share the essays on community they have written ahead.

Reading: Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Commitment and Community: Chapter 2 “Society’s Maternal Bed: Idealizations of Communal Life” (32-57); Dorothy Bass, ed., Practicing Our Faith: Chapter 9: Rasmussen, “Shaping Communities,” (119-132) and Chapter 3: Pineda, “Hospitality” (29-42).


Tues. Afternoon 5/29 – Centering Prayer (Fr. Martin) and Tai Chi (Trude de Jong); handouts will be given.


Tues. Evening = “The Every Day” - Film on Mt. Saviour Monastery


Wed. Morning 5/30

Choosing a Radical Early Christian Community

Handouts will be given describing four very different Christian communities of the fourth century and students will be asked to choose and imagine living in one of them that they will defend to the others.

Reading: Bass, Practicing Our Faith, Ch. 5, Copeland, “Saying Yes and Saying No” (59-73) and Ch. 8, Rogers, “Discernment” (105-118); Vanier, Ch. 2 “Walking Toward the Covenant” (61-83)

Recommended: Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation jn Early Christianity  Parts II – III, (210-447).


Weds. Afternoon 5/30

Benedictine Traditions of Work, Study and Prayer with Fr. Martin, Prior of Mt. Saviour Monastery

Reading: The Benedictine Rule (available at Monastery book store) and background handout. 


Weds. Evening 5/30

Discussion of our Community Experience so far and the reading.


Thurs. Morning 5/31 Continued discussion of our community so far.


Thurs.  Afternoon 5/31

Journaling Workshop with Suzanne Wilcox

Journals and handouts on the Progoff Method will be given out.


Thurs. evening 5/31 – Workshop with artist, Bob Ivers.


Fri. 6/1 All day field Trip to Ithaca

Lunch and conversation at Loaves and Fishes; Possible swim or walk in a gorge; Informal discussion on Social Justice Communities with the Catholic Worker Community; Visit to Namgyal Monastery and Conversation with the Tibetan Buddhist Monks; Dinner in a Thai restaurant.

Reading: Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes  (Part I--full book recommended); selections from Engaged Buddhist Reader, ed. Arnold Kotler: Part III, Compassion in Action (copies given);

Recommended: M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Ch. 3, “The True Meaning of Community” (59-76); Vanier, Community and Growth, Ch. 3“Mission,” (84-103).


Sat. 6/2 Morning - Psychosocial Dynamics led by Deborah Allen

(Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: Journey Toward an Undivided Life, Ch. IV; “Being Alone Together: A Community of Solitudes” 52-69, and other handouts given)

Afternoon Session – Emmaus Experiences of Building Community:

Interaction and activities with participants in the Emmaus Experiences, who generated the Radical Encounters Program.

Evening Cook Out at Mary Skinner’s One-Room School House


Sun. 6/ 3 Late morning &Afternoon Trip to the Peace Weavers Community in Bath; Holistic Health Practices and Spirituality inspired by Buddhism and Native American Traditions.

Reading: Selections from Kotler, Engaged Buddhist Reader, Part V, “Community” (191-219, handout); Bass, Practicing Our Faith, Ch. 2, Stephanie Paulsell. “Honoring the Body” (13-27) and Ch. 11, John Koenig, “Healing” (149-162). 

Recommended:  Kanter, Commitment and Community, Ch. V, “Issues in Group Life” (125-138); Peck, The Different Drum, Ch. 4- 6, “Genesis, Stages and Dynamics of Community” (77-135).


Sunday Evening 6/3 Discussion of our Community Experience so far and the assigned reading.


Monday Morning 6/4

Social Dimensions of Healthy Community (with Susan St. John-Jarvis)

Reading; Susan Brown, ed., Intentional Community, Chap. 1, Introduction and Chap. 2. Kamau, “Liminality, Communitas, Charisma” (1-40).

Recommended in Brown, Intentional Communities, Ch. 7, Andelson, “Coming Together and Breaking Apart;”  and Vanier, Community and Growth, Ch. 6-8, “Authority, Gifts and Welcome;” (205-283) ;” In Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness, Ch. V, “Preparing for the Journey: Creating Circles of Trust.”  (72-87)


Mon. Afternoon 6/4

Utopian Communities in Nineteenth-Century New York

American Utopian Communities: Mormons, Shakers and Oneida

Faculty will role play members of these communities seeking new recruits in the mid-nineteenth century (possibly special guests).

Reading: Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Commitment and Community, Ch. 1 “Refuge and Hope,” pp. 9-18 (on Oneida); Susan Brown, ed., Intentional Community: An Anthropological Perspective, Ch. 4: Lawrence Foster, “Between Two Worlds: …Development of Alternative Marriage Systems” (67-81).

Recommended: Thomas More, Utopia. Book II; America’s Communal Utopias. ed. Donald Pitzer: Priscilla Brewer, “The Shakers of Mother Ann Lee,”  (38-50); Dean May, “One Heart and Mind: Communal Life and Values among the Mormons,” (135-155) Lawrence Foster, “Free Love and Community: John Humphrey Noyes & the Oneida Perfectionists.” (253-270) Kanter Ch. 4, “Live in Love and Union;” and Brown, Ch. 6,  Elizabeth De Wolfe, “The Mob at Enfield: Community, Gender, and Violence against the Shakers” (107-128).


Evening Session – Rehearsal with the Reconciliation Choir

Reading: Bass, Practicing Our Faith, Ch 13, Don Saliers, “Singing Our Lives” (179-193).

Recommended Martin Luther King, Where do We Go from Here: Community or Chaos; David Steindl-Rast, The Music of Silence.


Tues. Morning 6/5 - Art of the monastery with Br. Gabriel –


Tues. Afternoon 6/5 Communities in Other Cultures with Trude de Jong – handouts will be given– followed by Tai Chi.


Tues. Evening – Discussion of our Community Experience so far and recent reading assignments.


Wed. Morning 6/6 – What have we learned about community? How might we find community with a significant spiritual dimension in our lives? Share our journals and proposals for our essays on issues or themes of community.

Reading: Kanter, Commitment and Community, Ch 7 “Retreat from Utopia” (165-190); Susan Brown, Intentional Community Ch. 8, “Community as Cultural Critique” (153-179); Vanier, Ch. 1, “One Heart, One Soul”  (1-34).

Recommended: Kanter, Ch. 9, “Limits of Utopia;” Vanier, Ch. 4, “Growth” (104-164); Daloz Parks, L. & S., Keen, C. & J., Common Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World; Kotler, Engaged Buddhist Reader, Part VI, “For a Future to be Possible.” (223-252).


Wed. Afternoon 6/6

Afternoon and Evening Field Trip to Transfiguration Monastery (Camaldolese Benedictine Women);

Reading: Gail Porter Mandell, Madeleva: One Woman’s Life (handout)

Recommended: Gretchen Siegler, “In Search of Truth: Maintaining Communitas in a Religious Community,” Chapter 3 of Intentional Community; Sandra Schneiders, New Wine Skins: Re-Imagining Religious Life Today, Chapters 7-13 (114-285); Janet Kalven, Women Breaking Boundaries: A Grail Journey, 1940-1995 (reserve).


Thurs. Morning 6/7: Drawing Conclusions, planning our proposed essays (due in a week although extensions are possible) and projecting possibilities for the Future  --departure after lunch.

       During the following week students should catch up on relevant assigned and recommended reading and do extra research as necessary to compose a ten-page essay on an issue or theme of community. (Sources cited in MLA style; to be emailed by 6/15 to an assigned faculty mentor).