Becoming Community | On Community Discernment

I constantly get ask what is Mustard Seed Associates (MSA) and what do we do. I also find myself trying to answer who we are and what do we do as intentional community, re: The Mustard Seed House. The answer to those  question can be as short as “we are a group of people living together trying to embody the Kingdom of God and a community that collaborate and sojourn with others planting mustard seeds of hope.” But it also can be as long as a 2 hour conversation over a couple cups of coffee. I prefer the long conversation.

MSA more than an organization, is an organic community of people. It grows organically and silently as it walks with others and serve as companions of many seeking to live intentionally by the alternative vibes of God’s Kingdom. It can be hard for people whom are used to the “do’s” and “programs” of organizations and non-profits to pin-point what we do. More than doing, we are -being- better yet, -becoming.  MSA, of what the Mustard Seed House is an expression of, is a community in becoming. One of our desires is to live alternatively, not just do or talk, but live and to become living beings in the new reality of God’s Realm. “But don’t you have programs?” Well, yes we do. But those programs grow from whom we are becoming. They are not the core, but the fruits.

As a community, we have house in which we welcome people into. We have our meetings around the same table where break bread and eat. We gather in living rooms for prayer and conversations. Our times of “planning” happen with our dogs in our midst and to the wonderful sound of children playing in the yard or in front porch. This is the kind of organic community that can drive some people crazy. As one with anarchist ideals, I thrive on it. It takes awhile for some people to come along, but there is no hurry. It is something we hope friends will grow into as they live into the rhythms of community. 

Because of our desire to move deeply in live together and in the Spirit we have decided to take time once or twice a month for mutual discernment. The following is a brief summary of what we have harvested out of those discernment meetings.

More On the MSA Discernment Process

Our MSA team has held a number of group discernment meetings since the last Board meeting with the intent of moving MSA towards a strategic plan for the next 3 – 5 years. These sessions have built on the foundations that we shared at the last Board meeting about why we have chosen to use this group discernment process because of our convictions that all we do needs to reflect our call to community.


Each session focused on a question that we feel is an essential part of the process that we are journeying together on. We have revisited our goals and pillars on several occasions to make sure that our direction is consistent with what we see MSA to be about. The questions that have been particularly important for us to grapple with are:

  1. What is MSA and how does that effect the way that we think as community?

    • This session reinforced our call to model community in all we are and do. It helped us to revisit the big picture of what MSA is about and how our new way of thinking can reinforce the values, goals and pillars of the organization.

    • This session helped us to recognize that one of the major roles of MSA is as a crossroads organization:- a convener of opportunities for a broad spectrum of people to come together and learn from each other.

    • We revisited this discussion at one of our later meetings, looking at how we can make our language & story consistent and uniform so that all of us communicate what MSA is about with the same words. Also this seemed consistent with the fact that we are highlighting a process rather than an end goal.

      • We felt that we needed organic language and decided we would like to use gardening imagery, obviously very consistent with the mustard seed concept –

        • greenhouse – composting – taking the old & making it new; Fertilizing – nourishing & growing; Mustard seeds – planting; Cross pollinating; Harvesting – encouraging fruitfulness; Watering; Weeding

    • We emphasized in this discussion that we are highlighting a process which also fits well with the Celtic imagery

      • Come to the greenhouse, incubate for a while, be fertilized (educated); germinated, & planted, grow produce fruit and multiply your efforts.

  2. What Gifts Does each member of the team bring to MSA and to the Broader Community?

    • In this session we asked each team member to share what they identified as the gifting of each other member in the MSA team. It was not only a very affirming and team strengthening time it was also a wonderful exercise to help us discern our strengths and weaknesses as an organization

  3. How Do We Relate to each other in a community based team?

    • This session was not just about interpersonal relationships. It helped us to confront the fact that most of us are used to working in a group but not necessarily as part of a team. We also recognized that in the past we have not tended to think about how our individual projects fit into the organization as a whole. If we respect each other as equals then we need to take each person’s projects as seriously as we do our own. We also need to make sure that decisions on new projects are made as a team that discusses together how this particular project will enable us to accomplish the MSA goals and how we as a team can ensure that this project is accomplished. I

    • It also initiated a good discussion about rhythms of life and how this impacts who we are and how we fit into MSA. We talked about the impact of family on our organization and started to grapple with this as a whole new way of thinking about what it means to be MSA

  4. What Are Our Roles in MSA?

    • In this session we started by talking about how each of us perceived our own job descriptions but this led to a much broader discussion of our dreams and hopes for the development of what each of us does in MSA. We also started to talk about how each of our roles in MSA integrate together.

    • This discussion reinforced some of our strengths and weaknesses and helped us to identify places in which we need to more intentionally look for collaborators and partners to be our companions on the journey and further strengthen what we do.

  5. How do we integrate all that we are and do in order to more effectively accomplish the goals of MSA

    • In our last session on Wednesday we talked about how to draw everything that we are involved in together as a single stream (or a Celtic woven cord). We recognize that we already have a lot of resources available or almost completed that could become excellent steps along a journey but that we need to be more intentional about how all of these fit together. .

    • For example – most people connect to MSA through the internet, through an event one of us is invited to speak at, or through reading a book. We discussed the possibility of developing an integrated process that draws people into MSA and encourages them to move along a journey towards a deeper relationship with God.

    • A possible process would be: Entry point  moving deeper by reading seed sampler and/or other MSA resources  moving deeper by attending a workshop or conversation at the Mustard Seed House  moving deeper by spending three months at the Camano Celtic Community.

    • One of the questions we asked that we will flesh out more in the next few months is: What is growing in MSA at the moment that we need to be fertilizing, watering and encouraging to grow?



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