Intentional Communities: The Renaissance Community, Massachusetts

An inside view.

| July/August 1984

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    The steel truss on this house behind a Renaissance garden is designed to support a free-form living room.
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    Renaissance's new, spring fed swimming pond.
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    A French intensive garden adjacent to preschool play areas.
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    An outdoor lunch break from an indoor remodeling job.

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We all live in communities of one kind or another. Even large cities can offer cohesive neighborhoods with common goals, interests, or ethnic backgrounds. Generally speaking, though, as towns grow larger and as families disperse, a sense of community becomes harder to find. Still, while an urban area may be impersonal, it is necessarily a highly interdependent environment.  

Likewise, even people who move to the country "to become self-sufficient" discover that success in attaining their goal is most often tied to the help and support they receive from people who live nearby—and the more remote the location, the more vital such cooperation is.  

Realizing the importance of such interdependence, some individuals go a step or two further and try to guarantee both physical and moral support by deliberately creating "neighborhoods" of like-minded persons. It's not a new concept. The Pilgrims were such people. Many of our early American communities were remarkably successful, others flourished briefly, some—for various reasons—died quick deaths. Those patterns are still being repeated today.  

In the last two decades in particular, there has been a revival of the intentional community concept. Currently, there are literally thousands of such places—large or small, struggling or prospering—all over the world. Their reasons for being, their forms of government, and their philosophies are as varied as we ourselves are.  

The Community Referral Service has compiled information on more than 125 intentional communities in the United States. This organization also contacted a variety of intentional communities for MOTHER EARTH NEWS.  

By publishing these firsthand reports written by community members, we are not endorsing these specific places (after all, we haven't actually visited most of them) but are trying to offer a small sampling of the diversity of such groups today. We recommend the CRS listing for anyone interested in a broader look at the movement. We also urge you to check out any intentional community very carefully before becoming involved. Nearly all require extended visits, some financial commitment, and the approval of most, if not all, of their members before accepting new residents. On the other hand, we've found that many offer challenging and viable alternative lifestyles, so a careful search may turn up just the supportive new home you've been looking for.  


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