Claire Dawson is a Christian working to develop an intentional community. Together with another family, her family has embarked upon the establishment of an 8-dwelling co-housing community on the suburban fringe of Melbourne (Victoria). They hope to become less car dependent, to share more things, to bulk purchase organic or local foods, minimise waste, generate much of their own solar power and learn and grow together. We can put you in touch with Claire if you'd like to explore involvement: there are currently a couple of units still available!
1. How does your faith describe the relationship with earth/ creation/ all beings?
I read the early chapters of Genesis as indicating that humans are made in the image of God, but increasingly I see it as being important to acknowledge that we are very much a part of creation, embedded within a complex ecology full of interdependent relationships. Creation is worthy of respect and care in its own right, aside from the amazing way in which it supports life on planet earth.
2. Which sacred text inspires you to act for change?
The book of Revelation provides significant hope for me and calls me to believe in, and work toward, the renewal of all things. Romans 8:22, “From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth”. This verse illuminates the struggles in this season, as creation groans in waiting, longing and anticipation.
3. How does your faith and/or your community with others provide you with a guide to life?
It is so important to be surrounded by individuals who share a concern for creation and a deep sense of responsibility to steward well the precious earth that has been entrusted to our care. I find important friendships at church, but also within local environmental groups. Both provide deep encouragement, hope and a sense of solidarity and partnership.
4. Is there a time of the year or a tradition in your faith when your community looks at how we live and consider how we could change it and live with less?
The Christian traditions that I have been involved with in the past have not really emphasised Lent, however I am drawing more and more from this liturgical season as I get older. I also think that we gave a tremendous opportunity to ‘re-frame’ the season of Christmas toward simplicity and the importance of presence, rather than consumption and greed.
5. What does your faith tradition teach about simplicity? What are the attitudes to material consumption in your faith?
Jesus’ words in Luke 12:15, warning us to guard against greed - as our lives do not consist of an abundance of possessions - seem so very relevant to us in the 21st Century. This is perhaps especially for those of us in affluent, materialistic cultures: we seem at very real risk of losing ourselves in a sea of ‘stuff’ and suffocating under mountains of waste. It is tragic.
6. Can you share a story of a change you have tried to make in your own life when it comes to diet (moving towards a plant-based diet and reducing food waste), mobility (decreasing use of car and plane) or renewable energy use?
Together with another family we have embarked upon the establishment of an 8-dwelling co-housing community on the suburban fringe of Melbourne (VIC). We hope to become less car dependent, to share more of our things, to bulk purchase organic or local foods, minimise waste, generate much of our own solar power and learn and grow together. Our four core values will be community, sustainability, generosity and teachability!
7. What was it like to work to make these changes? What was difficult? What was rewarding? How have you persevered?
While our new community is still in the building phase, by sharing a rental property together (as we patiently ‘wait’, plan and dream) we have already been able to reduce our carbon footprint through a range of opportunities to share. These opportunities include sharing a kitchen and laundry, as well as cars, at times. This all takes extra communication and organisation, but it’s worth it!
8. How does your faith help you in times of struggles, changes and new beginnings?
My faith offers meaning and perspective, and a call to seek the justice and peace of the coming Kingdom now, despite knowing that perfect restoration will not come through my own feeble efforts. As well as a deep conviction that we have caused real damage, I live with an abiding hope that all is not lost: there is no need for despair. Love calls us toward active hope!