“I think you have to think life…right ’til the end…and then you think eternal life.”
I met Tony and Jenny Potts at a Bruderhof community in New York’s Hudson River Valley. The Bruderhof are Christians, living in community…they share resources, faith, and a life-long commitment to care for one another.
Tony: We are here to serve others. It’s not a life of getting. It’s a life of trying to see where you can support others, show love and do also the things that need to be done; the daily nitty gritty. What we’re really trying to do is live out the Sermon on the Mount and to be somehow an example of the kingdom of God.
Where there’s a Bruderhof community, we hope it’ll be a little bit of God’s earth won back for his kingdom. We call it God’s embassy.
Jenny: We try with God’s help, in love, to find what is right for every soul. And we often fall short but Jesus teaches turn the other cheek, forgive 70 times 7, walk the second mile, give the cup of water.
Tony: We know we’re not always gonna be able physically, to manage…
Jenny: No, we’ve had to let go of many things. We love nature, hiking, climbing mountains.
Tony: Can’t do that anymore. As far or as fast but a little bit. We walk out into nature when we can. So our thinking is you do what you can do, you don’t give up until you can’t do it anymore. Live life.
We don’t expect to retire. We don’t want to retire. We want to use our lives as part of the community. We have given our lives, we’ve committed to a life of service, and we want to do what we can as long as we can. But that also includes the needs of the older people to also take quiet time and I mean we’re not ashamed to take what you call white space or take it a bit more easy. We don’t try to compete anymore with the 40 year-olds.
Jenny: Oh no, I mean I’ve been in and out of the wheelchair five times. I mean I could have been gone at least three times, but the good lord kept hauling me back and I’d say “what do I have to repent of?” [laughter]. Of course we’re very grateful for every year.
We had our 40th after the cancer. It didn’t look good at all. So the community we were living in, they did a bang up, a huge, huge celebration, huge cake. And we just celebrated life. L’Chaim! And here we still are. 54 (years together). So we thank God. It’s not in our hands. It’s just not.
And we are promised to be our brother’s keeper in good times as in hard times alike. And love, no matter what comes. So if our older people get Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s or anything, we’ll stand by them and support the family. So when our daughter now went through seven brain surgeries, they do not have to worry about the financial care, about caring for their children. The community will walk the second mile on all fronts.
And that we promise to anybody, everybody is loved as a brother and sister. Because we have the common vows and are pacifists, we will not kill or hurt. These foundation values, even though we stray as individuals or as a whole movement sometimes, we come back to them. But we also are this unique vision of living like the early Christians. No private property, no money, caring for one another…
Tony: It’s all an adventure
Jenny: I think in the end, we are seeking for the kingdom, living by Jesus’ commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and trying to flesh that out, in whatever situation you’re in.
I think you have to think life…right to the end…and then you think eternal life. It’s made us realize how little we know, how little we know about God’s timing, God’s planning, sickness, our own lives. All you can do is live the present day with the people you are with and love them and serve them. And you can either live selfishly or you can live servingly. The two S’s. [laughter].
Tony and Jenny Potts audio clip:
- What are some elements of a healthy community?
- What are the challenges of living in a community?
- Pick a community you’re a part of. How would you describe the mission of this community? Does this community achieve this mission in action?
- What value(s) are at the core of this community?
- Tony mentions sacrifice as a part of living in the Bruderhof community. How do you see sacrifice in relation to living in community? How about service?
- Describe your sense of outward vs inward security. How are they distinct from one another? How are they similar?
- When is a time that you’ve keenly felt the presence of community? When is a time you’ve felt its absence?
- When is a time that you’ve welcomed community? When is a time that you’ve rejected community?
- In which community do you feel most at home?
- How are your definitions of ‘home’ and ‘community’ related?
- The official website for the Bruderhof communities
- The Sermon on the Mount referred to in the interview
- A Huffington Post article on community
- An article in Craftsmanship Quarterly on building community