Tuesday, June 17, 2008

to inhabit a place

sherry and i have been reading and thinking and conversing about what it means to properly inhabit this place (lexington, ky).  it seems to us that one must grapple with fidelity to and love of a place in much the same way we grapple with fidelity and love as it relates to people and God.  Brueggemann writes ( in his book, "land: place as gift, promise and challenge in biblical faith) that much of the story of God involves three-way covenants/promises - God, humans, and the earth.

Some of us in community here are very much taken with the idea that we can enact faithfulness to the Triune Creator Covenant God by making long-term commitments to Lexington.  it is a small effort to affirm the particularity of the incarnation and speak a word of caution and perhaps rebuke against the hypermobility of our culture.  we are convinced that moving over and over again is ultimately dehumanizing and works against (for the most part) healthy human communities.

anyway, back to inhabiting a place...i read this quote in a book called "a christian theology of place" by John Inge (2003, p.131).  Inge is quoting Kemmis from his book, "community and the politics of place" (1990).

To inhabit a place is to dwell there in a practised way, in a way which relies upon certain regular, trusted habits of behaviour.  Our prevailing, individualistic frame of mind has lead us to forget this root sense of the concept of 'inhabitation.'  We take it for granted that the way we live in a place is a matter of individual choice (more or less regulated by bureaucratic regulations).  We have largely lost the sense that our capacity to live well in a place might depend upon our ability to relate to neighbours (especially neighbours with a different life-style) on the basis of shared habits of behaviour....In fact, no real public life is possible except among people who are engaged in the project of inhabiting a place.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. What an interesting concept!

I presume that it is necessary to find that delicate balance between living nomadically (not chaining ourselves to the things of our tangible lives by accumulating possessions, for instance) and still sinking our feet into deep relationships and knowledge about the area we call home. We must stop asking God, "What's next?" and start saying, "Thank you that I am here right now."

billy said...


Thanks for your reflections on these things that are consistently helping the rest of us to go deeper. After 10 years of being together with you and many others in this "place," I can honestly say that I am just beginning to understand the meaning of salvation, the nature of the Christian journey, and my own identity as a person. I think it takes that long to even get started....and it takes commitment to place...it is easy to forget that when a couple page turns in scripture can cover a hundred years, and when salvation is so often preached and lived as an "immediate" event/decision with some casual long term consequences.