Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Podcast Feed Update

For those of you who have subscribed to the podcast via iTunes and have been wondering why earlier episodes are either absent or disappear periodically, I recently submitted a new feed and hope that this will take care of the problem. The iTunes icon in the sidebar now links to the new iTunes podcast page. If you want to continue to receive new episodes through iTunes, or retain older ones, I suggest you re-subscribe there.

Unfortunately, I am still extremely limited in terms of my ability to choose what shows up in iTunes, such as podcast information and information for individual episodes. Apologies for this inconvenience.

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See you in Santa Cruz!

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Redwood Nonviolence Community, I would like to invite you to a discussion on faith-based intentional community with Julian Collette. It will be on Monday, October 10 at 7:30 PM in Room 108 of the old High School Building at Holy Cross Church. (It is the building between the parking lot and Highway 17, which runs behind it.) We hope you can join us.

Julian is a former monk of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur and currently a student at St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Minnesota. As part of his studies, he is researching faith-based intentional communities in the U.S. He has an interesting blog (http://emerging-communities.com) that charts his adventures and also includes a number of interviews with people who are very thoughtful and engaging on these issues. As he says, “I am taking my education and aspirations on the road—on a bicycle, to be exact—in order to explore the various ways Christian intentional communities in the United States are taking shape in response to rapidly changing social, cultural, economic, ecological, and technological conditions. While I am privileging Christian communities, I keep the lens of inquiry open enough to include non-Christian communities as well, in order to engage and learn from a diversity of perspectives, models, and practices. Additionally, while my understanding of what constitutes an intentional community remains flexible, I privilege those that actually reside together and participate in some form of shared prayer and ministry.”

If you are interested to know more about what he has seen and heard and to engage in conversation with him and others on this topic, please join us.

Warm regards,
Phil McManus

For the Redwood Nonviolence Community

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Eugene, Oregon


I left Portland with dread. My tendons were still somewhat sore and I had made up my mind to visit a doctor once I hit Eugene, another three-days’ bike ride away at a modest pace. I didn’t know how my body would handle biking again, and on top of that, the weather report predicted a 70% chance of rain at every hour of the day! However, the rain became the least of my worries. Thirty miles into the ride, I stepped out of the Safeway grocery store with nut-butters, bananas, and other assorted road-food, sat on the curb, and sobbed. My tendons were getting worse, and from my internet research I feared that I may have done serious damage. Was this it? Had I sabotaged the tour so early into the journey? Resigned to taking whatever action was necessary, I called a friend and arranged for a place to stay in Eugene. A couple more calls and the rescue mission was set in motion: from Canby back to Portland, and then, when I learned that the evening train was running too late, to another friend’s house for the night. Fortunately, this gave me the opportunity to meet and befriend two fabulous, generous people—another Parish Collective  connection, Candice and Brandon of Canby House and Springwater Community respectively—and spend more time with another fabulous, generous friend Angela. The next evening I arrived safely in Eugene by train.

New Friends Candice and Brandon

Old Friend, Angela

I visited the doctor the following day and, thankfully, was told that no damage had apparently been done, and that rest and ice should do the trick. And scouring the online recumbent forums, I learned as well that changing to clipless pedals (ironically named, since they’re the kind that clip your foot into the pedals by a cleat at the bottom of your shoe) should also mitigate the difficulties I was having. That’s the unambiguously good news. The more ambiguously good news is…well, now here’s where boundaries get a little fuzzy. What I mean by that is, while communities and bicycle touring comprise the primary content of this blog, underlying all of this is the personal journey, the pilgrimage, so to speak. Typically, I write about that journey in private and will have to negotiate the boundaries of how public that writing becomes as I go. But I feel compelled to allow a little bleed-through here.

Now, if a pilgrimage is true to its name, the pilgrim soon finds him/herself, in some sense, losing control of the journey, necessitating greater surrender in faith to the journey itself and where it leads. Oftentimes, this loss of control occurs with the onset of some form of wounding. So perhaps it’s not coincidence that my physical injury has coincided with having to revisit a personal loss and the consequences of  poor choices of the past, at the same time that commitment and stability have become recurring themes in my interviews, which has prompted a deeper realization of the lack of stability and enduring commitments in my own life. Even after having lived in community for nearly ten years (well, okay, three separate communities in that time period), I’ve never been so powerfully or painfully struck as I am now by my own self-defeating attitudes, evasions, and impulsive behavior that routinely sabotage the possibility of real stability, whether geographically, relationally, or vocationally.

Office Hours

This makes me wonder about the deeper questions of aspiring to commitment and stability for so many of us whose initial “household formation” took the shape of our conditioning in broken homes, in a broken culture that exalts the value of individual freedom and gratification often at the expense of stability and commitment, whose energies are engaged in expanding the opportunities and possibilities for that freedom to maneuver. However long it takes to realize that this path of unlimited options is a spiritual dead-end, ultimately destructive to people and planet, that realization is only the beginning. Having made the conscious choice to take a different path, the next step is to confront the myriad unconscious factors that militate against that intention; or to paraphrase Saint Paul, though my inner being delights to do God’s will, the habit-patterns forged in my mind, emotions, imagination, impulses, and attitudes follow a different law. And the journey toward integrity of intention and action is one of a lifetime and, I suspect, beyond.

The good news then, ambiguous as it might seem, is that, according to my spiritual director, these “wounds” and uncomfortable realizations indicate that the pilgrimage is on in earnest.

So the journey must continue. I hope to be biking again within the week, on to my next stop, Lost Valley Education Center and Ecovillage. In the meantime, my interview with pastor John Schwiebert of the Metanoia Peace Community will be published shortly, and soon thereafter, an extremely interesting, thought provoking conversation with Lysbeth Borie, a consensus trainer with the Alpha Institute.

Stay tuned…

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…or walk, or sit, or lie down!
Okay, now I’m really on the road. Up till now, I’ve flown, bused, and been driven. On Wednesday, however, I pedaled forth from the Tacoma Catholic Worker for the three-day trip to Portland. Sixty-five miles to Centralia the first day, and my knees were in so much pain that I could barely walk. I set up camp tucked away beneath a sprawling maple tree behind a suburban cemetery (while touring, I prefer what’s commonly called ‘stealth camping’—the often legally ambiguous practice of setting up camp in discreet places scoped out each evening, off by early morning without a trace). Despite the fact that I was within easy sight of a line of rooftops overlooking the fence line nearby, I assumed that I was well hidden. That is, until a man and his two dogs came trotting past a mere 10 yards from the tent! I decided to take the initiative, leaping up to introduce myself and state my intentions. No problem. The night and early morning passed without incident. Given the physical pain and the newness of sleeping outdoors again, however, sleep was intermittent at best.

Trailside Picnic

In the morning, I made some mechanical adjustments to the bike, intended to mitigate knee pain, then off to an agonizing start. I made a judgment call, assuming that the pain was something that could be worked through rather than exacerbated by more biking. By midday, however, it was not my knees as much as my achilles tendons that throbbed with jolts of pain at every pedal stroke. After crawling at three miles an hour up a prolonged but thankfully not terribly steep incline, it began to rain! I dragged myself limping into a pizza shop and wondered if I could even continue. Was I setting myself up for serious injury? Would I even be able to do this tour after such extensive preparation? Ninety-two miles to Portland and I was scheduled to arrive the next day. I ate my pizza, swallowed my resistance, and, having vaguely considered and dismissed plan B (making my way to I-5 to hitchhike the rest of the way), I climbed back onto the bicycle and achingly pedaled on.

The upside of the day was the stunning views through rolling forested hillsides that followed. This is why I bicycle tour!—this slow, quiet, solitary movement amid such primordial beauty (never mind the logging trucks!). Ultimately, I covered sixty miles by the day’s end, landing on the Oregon-side of the border just south of Ranier. Having been tipped off that I should be able to find camping space in a county park along the Columbia River, I rolled downhill to the waterside. However, I was more than a little dejected when I discovered a mere grassy parking lot at the edge of the railroad tracks. Not safe. Unable to bike, I pushed uphill to the last house I passed with a sizable yard, knocked on the door to ask for a place to set up my tent for the night, and instead was offered a bed and warm shower! An awkward moment ensued as Bob and I sized each other up, sensing whether the other might actually be dangerous.

“So…is it just you who live here?”

“Just me and my wife.”

I accepted the offer but had a moment of panic when, having stowed the bike, set myself up in the guest bedroom, and yet still hadn’t seen a sign of another inhabitant, Bob turned to me and said, “Well, the wife seems to have disappeared!” Really!!?? But my anxiety was quickly assuaged when his wife Bonnie finally did appear, having gone to track down the cat who had been startled away by my sudden intrusion into their otherwise quiet, secluded rural home. Tensions eased, I spent a very pleasant evening slurping strawberries and cream, conversing, and watching television. And the warm bed and shower were greatly appreciated. Another reason to love bicycle touring: placing yourself in the position to discover and enjoy the serendipitous hospitality of strangers.

I set off early morning refreshed but still in pain, once again taking the gamble that my body would acclimate rather than suffer injury. Happily, more than forty miles later I rolled into Portland with vigor, knee pain all but completely gone, tendon pain no longer an obstacle. I arrived at Metanoia Peace Community late afternoon, with plenty of time to settle in, shower, and enjoy a family-style meal, exhausted but grateful.

Now, my hope was that along the way I would stop at cafes and edit and publish interviews and blog and otherwise keep on top of my responsibilities. In the end, however, at least this time around, it was enough to simply bike these 170 miles, nothing extra. Which is to say that, although at the end of my interview with Craig Greenfield I suggested that I would publish interviews at the rate of approximately once a week, I have learned that, until I acclimate to the biking and become a more efficient editor/blogger, this is an unrealistic goal. I have an interview from Tacoma Catholic Worker on hand and soon one from Metanoia Peace Community, but I make no promises as to when they will be published. Since most of the communities I plan to visit on the West Coast are geographically consolidated, a more reasonable approach might be to do most of the editing and publishing in the long spaces between, such as from southern Oregon to the San Francisco Bay.

In the meantime, the good news is that my body does seem to be acclimating rather than disintegrating, and the tour is finally underway in earnest. Next step: learning rhythms that sustain me physically, emotionally, and spiritually, that also allow me to enter and be open to the rhythms and relationships of the communities I visit.

One day, one pedal stroke at a time.

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“WHEN PROSPERITY ENDS, REAL FAITH BEGINS”  —from a banner seen on a Canadian highway. 

Yes, I am finally on the road. Seattle, to be exact, after five days in Vancouver, B.C. I have an interview with Craig Greenfield of Servants Vancouver almost ready for publishing (should be up Friday), and will have more to say about that community in the interview post.

First impressions?

On a personal level, actually beginning the tour has been quite an emotional adjustment. Committing to having no stable home, to constant flux for over a year, is a very different animal now that I’ve actually stepped off that ledge than it was when it remained a ‘bright idea.’ So I’ve been enduring what might best be understood as the psychological equivalent of seasickness—grappling for a sense of stability and groundedness amidst a strange floating sensation in the absence of familiar reference points. Ah, but this adjustment period was anticipated and I trust will pass soon enough.

I am also aware of how different this bicycle tour is from previous ones, and not just for the obvious reasons of its length and intentions. During my first major bicycle tour, I had no explicit religious faith but believe in retrospect that I touched something of God in solitude and intimacy with nature that was very healing. On my second major bicycle tour, I had some degree of faith, enough to know to listen to a persistent intuitive impulse that haunted me throughout the journey, gently but firmly insisting that I should stay at a Catholic monastery should the opportunity arise (I wasn’t a practicing Catholic or even Christian at the time and had no real conscious desire to stay at a Catholic monastery). That opportunity did arise when I happened upon New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. I stopped, was invited to stay, and remained there for six joyous, challenging, transformative years.

Experiences such as these have taught me to regard bicycle touring as a kind of charism, a privileged way in which God seeks me out in the unexpected twists and turns of the journey. Hence, on this my third major tour, wherein my explicit Christian faith is the source of inspiration and informs the content and aims of my travels, I now anticipate and already dimly sense the presence of the Spirit haunting my pedal strokes. What is She up to this time, I wonder? In the vulnerability and unpredictability of this lifestyle, including my dependence on the hospitality of strangers, I am all the more conscious of my need for God—for abiding love and faithfulness, a ground deeper than the flux of life, for guidance and light, to be called out of self-preoccupation and into meaningful relationships and loving service. For all these reasons, bicycle touring itself has become a form of prayer, rendering me, I believe, all the more open and receptive to sensing the life of God in the communities I visit and the people and events that come my way.

So let us pray…

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Saint John’s Abbey Chapel; May 23rd, 2011

By the time this post is published, I will already be in retreat and hence off-line until June 2nd.

Leaving Saint John’s has been a mixture of sorrow to leave friends and a pattern of life that I’ve grown to value these past three years, elation at the prospect of actually hitting the road and living a dream that’s been percolating and slowly coming to actualization over the past year, and the occasional moment of deer-in-the-headlights anxiety as I contemplate the future: “I’m going to do WHAT!?”

Dinner with Friends

Most of all, there is gratitude. The celebratory dinners, and prayers and blessings that have been offered on my behalf this past week have all been genuine sources of comfort, connection, and affirmation. And the outpouring of financial support has been astounding. I set a goal of wanting to raise a total of $10,000 before I leave, not believing that I would actually reach that amount. As of this writing, however, I have received $9,500, a mere $500 short of my projected goal. To me, this is a resounding success, not only because I now have enough funds to complete at least most of the tour, but because of what this outpouring of support tells me about my aspirations for this project: I have struck a chord with many people who not only see meaning and value in what I am doing but are willing to invest themselves to help make it happen. Taken altogether, I cannot imagine leaving on a more positive, encouraging note.

So as I take this bundle of sorrow, elation, anxiety, and gratitude into 10 days of silent prayer, I say: Thank you. I will see you on the road.

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Bicycle’s good to go! A Vision R40 outfitted with full camping gear and all the gadgetry for on-the-road multimedia blogging/podcasting.

Fully-loaded, soon-to-be mobile home.

Speaking of gadgets, thanks to a SON delux dynamo hub attached to a BioLogic ReeCharge power pack (see pics below), I will be generating my own electricity! One bicycle tourist claims to have generated enough from a similar combo to charge an iPhone approximately six times on a single day’s ride with a 26-inch wheel. My smaller 20-inch wheel means more rotations hence even more energy. The power pack can charge anything compatible with a USB plug and detaches easily from the bike so that I can charge a smartphone and all the batteries I’ll be using, save for camera and laptop, in my tent at night. If any of you techies out there can think of a way that I can make an AC plug compatible with a USB port, please let me know. A simple adapter should do it, though I haven’t found one or even know if such a thing exists.

SON delux front dynamo hub.

BioLogic Reecharge power pack.

For now, however, I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from biking. I ship the bicycle to Seattle tomorrow, to meet up with it again in early June. In the meantime, I begin a 10-day Centering Prayer retreat at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Saint Joseph, MN, on Tuesday the 24th, then leave from there to visit family in Florida. On June 7th, I fly to Vancouver, BC, to visit the Servants Vancouver community, among others, before busing back over the border to begin the West Coast leg of the bicycle tour.

To Seattle and beyond!

Special thanks to the guys at Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, MN, for building both wheels and custom adjustable-length handlebars, and to the ever-helpful Jessie Bostic and crew at Hostel Shoppe Recumbents in Stevens Point, WI.

Update on the Son Delux/BioLogic Recharge combo, March 3, 2012: 

Since a lot of people arrive at this post after searching for “son delux” or “BioLogic Recharge” or some combination thereof, I thought I’d give a brief update on the products. Overall, I am satisfied. They’ve held up for over a couple thousand miles, withstanding rain and wilderness camping without a hitch. A significant fact to mention in this regard is that, because the placement of the battery pack on my bars differs from that of an ordinary upright bike, the connection port for the wire coming from the hub is more exposed, at least potentially, to water entering from rain. Even so, I’ve had zero problems in wet weather (which is more than I can say for my odometer/speedometer, which always takes the first drops of rain as a signal that it’s time to go to sleep!).

I am somewhat disappointed, though, with the amount of charge I am able to accumulate per day. Now, I may be wrong here but I had the impression that my smartphone battery (LG Optimus S) held its charge for longer periods of time and also charged more quickly at the beginning of the tour. I say “maybe” because I wasn’t paying any kind of systematic attention to how much battery charge I was getting from the BioLogic Recharge at the end of the day. This was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t using my smartphone much in those early days. My smartphone use has increased dramatically since then, however, after discovering Words with Friends :p

Now, I estimate that I get a little over 1% smartphone charge, maybe as much as 1.25%, for every mile I peddle. Keep in mind that this is on a 20″ tire, so if you’re using a 26″ or 700c tire, you’re going to get less rounds per mile and hence less charge generated. I would have to bike approximately 80 miles, therefore, to charge my phone completely from 0. This has worked out fine for my purposes but is drastically less than I had estimated from (perhaps misinterpreting) the information I gleaned from the blog post linked above.

I will also add that, not only has this combo proven ultra-durable and rain-proof but also extremely user friendly for bike-camping. The battery back slips off the bicycle handily enough, fits in your pocket, and charges your phone or batteries (AA, AAA) while you sleep.

In sum, these two products combined have met or exceeded my expectations in all areas but one: the amount of charge they’re able to impart to my smartphone per mile. With that qualification, I still highly recommend them.

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Minnesota Dreamin’

Welcome! My name is Julian Collette and I am currently studying the Christian monastic tradition at Saint John’s School of Theology•Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota. Please read the “About” page to learn more about me and this project. For now, a brief introduction: I am planning to make a fourteen month (or so) bicycle-camping tour of the United States, scheduled to begin the first week of June, 2011. Over the course of the tour, I intend to visit approximately fifty intentional communities and conduct interviews with community members and others involved in the intentional communities movement. Though primarily focusing on Christian communities, I will also include some non-Christian communities and perspectives to provide a wider context.

Presently, I am doing much work in preparing, with a class devoted to developing research questions and methods. Since mere descriptive documentation is superfluous in the age of the internet (most communities already have their own websites, after all), I want to follow lines of inquiry that will yield a meaningful contribution to communities and to the burgeoning interest in many Christian circles in communal living. Additionally, while I am still here at Saint John’s, I will take advantage of my proximity to two monasteries, two universities, a theological school and seminary, and an ecumenical institute—I will ply the minds of several resident scholars, monks, and nuns and make the resulting interviews available on this site before I leave. The content of these interviews will focus on providing some historical context for the conversations to follow, addressing such topics as:

  • The diversity of ascetical, communal living in early Christianity before this diversity was consolidated into institutional forms of the monastic movement, and what this early diversity has to say to contemporary Christian communities.
  • Reform and seeds of change in traditional Christian communities over the past century, especially following Vatican II.
  • Lay evangelical communities, both pre- and post-Protestant Reformation, and their relationship to the institutional churches and traditional religious communities, especially as this relationship is shifting in contemporary movements such as the ‘New Monasticism.’
  • The intentional communities movement in the United States past and present, Christian and non-Christian.

Preparation will also include fundraising, networking, making connections with communities, planning a loose itinerary for the tour, and of course, physical training. While I am a seasoned bicycle tourer, I am not exactly at the peak of physical condition at the moment!

I would like to share my heartfelt gratitude for so many of you who’ve offered support, encouragement, and thoughtful conversation, helping to make this summer’s daydream an emerging reality: Ryan Mlynarczyk and Mandy Creighton of Within Reach for the inspiration, Dr. Kathleen Cahalan, Grace Ellens, S. Kathryn Casper, OSB, S. Mary Forman, OSB, Dr. Bill Cahoy, the Leighton and Rosha families, Laird Schaub and the Fellowship for Intentional Community, Dr. Ivan Kauffman, tech-savvy Audrey Seah, and many others besides. I am deeply grateful to all of you and look forward to your continuing to accompany me on the way.

Please do not be concerned if I don’t write many posts in the next couple of months. I will be working mostly behind the scenes until I leave. At the same time, I value your input, comments, and questions, and hope that this website will become a rich forum for conversation and dialog. So please share your thoughts, either by email or by commenting on these posts. I also encourage you to sign up to receive email notifications, make a contribution if you feel so moved, and spread the word!

Thank you, and stay tuned…

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