You’ve probably never heard of Blair Adams, but he was perhaps one of the most important Christian thinkers in recent memory, and he was certainly one of the most visionary.
Adams, who died July 27 of cancer at the age of 77, founded Homestead Heritage, a Christian community now based in Elm Mott, Texas, four hours from TexARKana.
The idea behind Homestead Heritage is that a church is not a building you “go” to on Sundays. Rather, it is a group of people who share a life of faith within a community.
Adams grew up in Texas and, after a spiritual journey, became a minister. With his wife, Regina, he founded a church in an underprivileged neighborhood of New York in 1973. A tribute to Adams on the Homestead Heritage website described his thoughts on modern American life as follows: “The educational model, the entertainment, the approach to calling, the provision of essentials like food, the order of family relationships – all of this represented a culture that fostered the very dysfunctions that you were striving to help people overcome.
An alternative culture was needed, he decided. He and his church members have developed a communal Christian lifestyle marked by home schooling, home births, and growing their own food. This homecoming lifestyle could not be lived in New York City.
Eventually the entire church community, about 100 at the time, moved to Colorado and started a farm.
The community then moved to Texas in 1980 and took root. It has grown to around 1,000 people, of whom about a quarter live on community property. She operates a 550 acre farm using draft animals. Families also have gardens in their homes.
Food is grown and prepared naturally. The emphasis is on traditional craft skills such as soap making, weaving and furniture making. Community members learn a variety of skills rather than specializing in just one thing. Sister communities have sprung up in three states and three countries.
Adams believed in living in peace with others outside of the community. Handicrafts are sold in Homestead Heritage Handicraft Village and displayed at the community’s annual meeting
Thanksgiving Farm Fair. The community teaches foreigners traditional skills through its Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture courses.
We have several friends who have moved their families from Arkansas to Elm Mott.
They live a lifestyle of faith, hard work and other members of the community. They always do something for someone. They stay busy doing something positive
activities and develop skills. They take advantage of what is good in modern American life while seeking to avoid what is harmful. They have internet but don’t watch TV.
The Homestead Heritage lifestyle isn’t for everyone, of course. Members live in a distinct community, inside but outside of society. What should we believe
community members believe to be part of their fellowship. Although they do not engage in politics, they live conservatively. It is common for families to have many children. Community members hold traditional views on family roles and relationships. Women dress modestly and do not cut their hair.
Either way, Arkansas church leaders should consider making a pilgrimage to Elm Mott for ideas on how to make their own church less of a facility and more of a community.
It’s no genius to realize that modern American life is inherently unhealthy – physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. We complain about such things all the time. The folks at Homestead Heritage have taken on the much more difficult task of intentionally doing something about it. In a disconnected world, they are trying to figure out how to authentically connect with God, with the earth, and with other people.
Blair Adams started thinking about these things 50 years ago. Now – especially now – would be a good time for the rest of us.
Steve Brawner is a union columnist who focuses on Arkansas politics and whose work appears in 16 Arkansas publications. He is a regular contributor to Talk Business and is a frequent guest on the Arkansas PBS public affairs show, “Arkansas Week”.