I created this blog a little over a month ago but have not gotten around to writing this initial post. Part of the reason is procrastination, finals, etc but it's also because I've had difficulties trying to formulate and answer to the questions, "What is the Bonhoeffer House?". I get the question fairly often and am not sure that I've given the same answer more than once and so it's hard for me to sit down and write down an answer. I've never been much of a writer. I much prefer to speak, preach, or dialogue. When you are talking to someone you get instant feedback and can tailor what you are saying to who you are saying it to. In writing you are not given that luxury. You have to do your best to put something out there and hope that you can reach as many people as possible.
Having said that, I will now take on the task of answering the question as best I can. I'm also going to ask the other Bonhoeffer guys to answer the same question and maybe get some other input from people who have visited or worked with Bonhoeffer.
Before talking about the Bonhoeffer House in particular I think I should talk a little bit about The Epworth Project. The Epworth Project was started by Dr. Elaine Heath who is a professor of evangelism at Perkins School of Theology where many of the residents attend school. It is a network of 5 (soon to be 6 and hopefully 7) New Monastic Houses which is part of The Missional Wisdom Foundation. The houses are the Phoebe Palmer House, Amani House, Romero House (plus the Romero House Apartment), William Seymour House, and the Bonhoeffer House. Each house has it's own anchor church and each house takes on it's own identity based on the church it is anchored in, the residents of the house, the community in which it's locate, as well as other factors. It is my opinion that the community in which it's located is the main determining factor.
The Bonhoeffer House is located in East Dallas and is next door to Grace UMC. Grace is a very active church in the community and have various ministries such as an open door preschool, free law clinic, agape clinic, ministry for teen mothers, and others. At Bonhoeffer we have worked with Grace on a few endeavors but have mostly worked to form our own identity.
We did not move in until October and spent the first couple of months simply getting acquainted with the neighborhood and the needs in the area. The three main requirements of the house are daily prayer, once a week community meals, and 4 hours of community service. Even those three simple requirements were difficult to meet when we first moved in. Jonathan and George were busy with their internship, Adam was still working on occasion with the Denton Wesley Foundation while he was transitioning to Denton, and I was taking a full 12 hrs at Perkins. Prayer was at 8:00am but many times it was just us talking for a while and then praying a quick 5 minute prayer, meals would be moved around to different days, breakfast instead of dinner, and it was mostly just 3 or 4 of us.
I went away to Peru over the winter break and the other 3 had their Christmas break plans as well. While in Peru I still tried my best to remain in contact with the guys and Dallas and I learned that they were finding ways to get to know the neighborhood and get connected. We set up a meeting with Diana, the pastor at Grace, and I was able to join via the wonderful technology of skype.
Once we all 4 got back to Dallas and the second semester began, we started doing more. We were all completing out 4 hours of community service, our prayer became more fruitful as we began using Common Prayer a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and more people began to join us for our weekly meals. The biggest change happened when Chris came to live with us. When Chris came to live with us he brought a wealth of knowledge about the community and shared with us the experiences that lead him to live on the streets and what he has been doing to get off and stay off the streets. We have continued to make friends with a few homeless in the community that stop by for a quick bite to eat or something to drink. We hope to continue forming relationships and helping the people in the community as they continue to help us in the process.
The final aspect has been the connections we have made with various organizations. Through Chris, we have gotten to know people from City Square and have begun conversations with them. We have also gotten to know people from Crossroads, the Stewpot, and Art House Dallas. We are continuing to get to know people and organizations in the area and Bonhoeffer is truly taking on an identity of it's own. All 4 of us will be living here for another year and we hope that the Spirit only continues to work with the ministry here.
This is just a small part of what Bonhoeffer is to the community and to myself. I would love to continue the conversation so feel free to email me or stop by the house.