I had never heard of Camano Island before becoming the Executive Director of Mustard Seed Associates (now Circlewood) in 2017. All I knew is that I had prayed for an opportunity to help people of faith rediscover that love and care for the earth and all its creatures is at the very heart of faith, and that prayer had been answered.
I was taking over a vision from Tom and Christine Sine, two incredible people who have dedicated their lives to helping others develop a deep and forward-looking faith that is unafraid to take on the challenges of our times. Having been influenced by the integrated nature of Celtic Christianity, Tom purchased forestland on Camano in the 1980's, and the two of them began hosting Celtic prayer retreats and developing the land as a creation care study site.
Now I was entrusted with the 40 acre forest, as well as with the vision for creating something within the forest that would be a catalyst for change. It began with learning about the forest and how to care for it in a way that not only preserved but enhanced its ecological health.
The next step was to begin a revisioning process. Fortunately for me, the gifted architect who had been working on the project, David Vandervort, agreed to keep the vision alive and keep working.
We began to define a vision for a place that would be a catalyst for the type of transformative change we need. We began calling it Circlewood Village - here's a early description that still holds up pretty well:
Imagine a place within a dynamic ecosystem where people thrive as they connect deeply with God, each other, the local creatures and the land itself. Imagine a place of prayer and worship that is shaped by contemplative, missional faith as well as the landscape and seasons. Imagine a place where people can explore the connections between faith and forest, Christ and creation, discipleship and healthy living, evangelism and earth-keeping, soil care and soul care, racial justice and renewable energy. Imagine a place where people explore the integration of their physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual lives. Imagine a place where healthy, sustainable food is grown, harvested, eaten, and shared. Imagine a place that draws people to come and learn about the world, their place in it, and their calling as caretakers. Imagine a place that helps break down the unnecessary and unhelpful separations between sacred and secular, physical and spiritual, human and non-human, work and worship. Imagine a place in which celebration, joy, and abundance are everyday realities. Imagine a place that helps individuals, communities, and institutions explore innovative ways to live more faithfully and sustainably.
Slowly but surely, the vision has been taking shape.
We have put together a design and development team that is moving the vision toward reality. This incredibly talented group of architects, engineers, landscapers, and sustainability experts are opening up possibilities that I would never have imagined. Together, we have put together a design that moves past typical green building and sustainability standards - the word we use is regenerative, meaning a built environment that is not just sustainable but is actually contributing to the well-being of it's ecosystem.
Circlewood Village has been accepted as an official project of The Living Building Challenge, the world's most rigorous certification process for green building. It is a huge goal, and it will take a lot of work to get there, but we believe we need big ideas and people willing to risk them if we are going to move toward a collective way of life that is in harmony with creation.
When completed, Circlewood Village will be a demonstration of this new way of life, a center for learning that will teach and equip people to pursue transformation in their own lives and places, and the village will be Circlewood's headquarters.
This is the first development project I have ever been involved in. I was told that it would be very difficult, take longer than I expected, and that at times I would wonder why we are doing it. All that has been true, but big challenges require big risks, and this is a risk worth taking.
I knew that at some point this project would require people willing to move into the neighborhood - Camano Island - in order to be part of the community and help guide the complex process of development. That time has come for me and my family - we are moving to Camano in July. Leading Circlewood has been a journey that requires one step of faith at a time. This is a big step for us - more like a leap - but we are convinced that the time is right and that God will carry us. We would appreciate your prayers for the transition.
The transition means that I will be taking a 4-6 week break from writing my weekly column. The good news is that this gives us the opportunity to share pieces by new writers focused on practical earthkeeping, with the goal that this area of focus will become a new weekly column after I return. I trust you will enjoy them, and look forward to writing for you again soon.
With you on the Way,
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