In 1995, dozens of homeless families had moved into an abandoned Catholic church building in North Philadelphia. They were told by the Archdiocese that they had 48 hours to move out, or they could be arrested. With nowhere to go, these courageous mothers and children hung a banner on the front of the building that said, “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday, and ignore one on Monday?” The families held their own press conference and announced that they had talked with the real “Owner” of the building (the Lord Almighty!) – and God said they could stay until they found somewhere else to go.
That’s was the spark that lit the fire of The Simple Way.
A few years after the takeover of the church ended -- in January 1998 -- some of the students who had been a part of that movement pooled their money together and bought 3234 Potter Street. They took an old shoe repair store and made it their home. Before long they grew into other abandoned houses on the block.
Since that experience in 1995, we have been inspired by the early church in the book of Acts, where the Bible says the early Christians shared all their possessions in common, gave freely to those in need, and met in each other’s homes for worship. The Gospel was lived out of dinner tables and living rooms.
And now – after over two decades -- an intentional community has turned into a little village.
The Simple Way is made up of
“remainers” (long-term, indigenous residents)
“returners” (people from the neighborhood who have come back to be a part of the restoration)
“relocators” (non-indigenous friends who have moved here to intentionally bring their gifts and energy).
And we are all committed to building a neighborhood we are proud of.
We have a cluster of about a dozen properties on the same block -- houses and gardens we share. We are building a park and a green-space where a fire burned down part of our neighborhood in 2007.
We paint murals, help kids with homework, share food, host neighborhood celebrations, and try to live as one big family… which means eating together, praying together, doing life together.
We also believe in challenging the systems and structures that hold people down, squash people’s hope and destroy people’s dignity. That means we care about things like racial justice, mass incarceration, gun violence (and all violence!), inequality between the rich and poor, and all such things. For us, the Kingdom of God is not just something we hope for when we die but something we are trying to bring on earth as we live… in fact, we’re trying to bring God’s dream to North Philly.
So that’s The Simple Way. And the original house at 3234 is the hub where it all happens.
A dozen or so friends and neighbors make up the core of the community here at The Simple Way – and hundreds of other friends around the world support us you’re your prayers and generous gifts.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
A rancher once explained that there are two ways to keep the cows in. One is to build lots of fences and gates. The other is to keep a really good source of food and water at the center of the ranch. Building a community is sort of like that. Rather than having too many fences and gates to hold people in or lock people out, we prefer having a good source of food at the center.
When we started The Simple Way, we talked for many (many, many!) hours and ended up summing up our entire mission into this: Love God, Love People, and Follow Jesus.
That’s still the vision, but over the years we’ve found it helpful to put some flesh on that vision, and name some of the other beliefs and practices that lie at the heart of The Simple Way.
So – along with Jesus – there are some shared beliefs and practices that are at the center of The Simple Way and hold us together. We like to emphasize both beliefs and practices, as Christians throughout history have seen that the Christian faith is both about what we believe (“orthodoxy” meaning right belief or doctrin) and how we live (“orthopraxis” meaning right practice or living).
This is sort of our shared DNA as a community.
That’s not to say everyone who volunteers or supports us has to believe or practice every one of these, but it is helpful to name the values we hold dear and be transparent about those. So these are the things we aspire to as a community.
Foundations | Commitments | 12 Marks of New Monasticism