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Bethlehem Farm, Pence Springs, West Virginia
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Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic community in Appalachia that transforms lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices. We invite volunteers to join in living the Gospel cornerstones of community, prayer, service and simplicity.
Bethlehem Farm is home to full-time caretakers, chiefly lay men and women in their early twenties, but open to all ages as well as to priests and religious. Full-time caretakers are expected to commit to at least one year, although several people will need to commit to longer periods at its commencement. All members are either unsalaried or receive a small stipend and draw from Bethlehem Farm whatever is needed for expenses. One primary outreach of Bethlehem Farm may eventually be home repair for low-income families living within 45 minutes of our location, with an emphasis on those families in the immediate community. We selected the ministry of home repair since adequate shelter is an inalienable right of all people and the housing in central Appalachia seems to be in a continual state of crisis. However, we will be open to the Holy Spirit’s call on the shape of our ministry and will take special care to listen to the needs of our neighbors in the area, allowing them to help shape our efforts. We will provide free labor, except in the rare case necessitating professional assistance, and we will make the down payment on building materials when necessary, asking families to pay off the loan on an affordable payment plan that meets their needs. We will place an emphasis on working with (rather than for) the families we serve as much as possible and we will value both the work we accomplish and the relationships we build. The other primary outreach of Bethlehem Farm is to the youth and young adult short-term volunteers that serve with us. We host week-long service retreats primarily for parish youth groups, high schools, and colleges. The experience is grounded in the Catholic tradition and we are open to volunteers of all faiths, including people with agnostic, humanist, secularist, or atheist beliefs, as long as they are open to the Catholic tradition. The community members facilitate relationships between our neighbors and our volunteers, allowing God to do the work of conversion in the hearts and minds of all involved. We provide volunteers with diverse prayer experiences, engaging service sites, a reflective atmosphere, a listening ear, knowledge of Catholic social teachings, an introduction to simple living, and the tools necessary to bring the experience home with them. Most importantly, we model for them the core values of the Christian life.
Organizational Statement of Faith
Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic home repair ministry located in Appalachia. Our ministry is based on the Gospels and the Catholic Social Teachings, looking to the pastoral letters This Land is Home to Me and At Home in the Web of Life for further inspiration and guidance. In accord with the Gospels, we will seek to build our daily lives on the cornerstones of prayer, community, service, and simplicity. Bethlehem Farm is a center of reflection and prayer in the service of action. We respond to the needs of our local community and live in solidarity with the people we serve as they lead us into a closer relationship with Christ. Our goal is to establish a committed group of full-time caretakers who build relationships locally and place their lives at the service of the poor. We host volunteer groups primarily composed of teens and young adults who live the communal life with us while serving the local community by working with local organizations and individuals who request help. We are centered on the Eucharist and open to the Spirit. We resist the popular culture as much as it is a "culture of death" and participate in it as much as it is a "culture of life." We seek out ecumenical ventures in the interest of preaching the gospel and furthering Christian unity. Since the fall of 2003 (and in subtle ways beforehand), the Spirit of God has been moving us to dedicate ourselves in a special way to serving God’s people in Appalachia. Our ministry is based on the essence of Nazareth Farm in Doddridge County, West Virginia, because of the metanoia, the radical change in heart and mind, that both staff and volunteers have experienced there. We envision the purpose of Bethlehem Farm to: + witness to the gospel by rooting our activities in the four cornerstones of prayer, community, service, and simplicity. + work with people to address local needs, especially low-income home repair, but remaining open to God’s call for us to other ministries. + form a "contrast community" that chooses to build with God’s plans in mind, rather than blindly following a culture that promotes pleasure, wealth, and power. + pray in both traditional and creative ways in order to foster spiritual growth, keep the focus on Christ, and mutually encourage one another + encourage metanoia in ourselves, our volunteers, and the community we serve, with emphasis on the Eucharist as a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God + form an intentional Christian community of trust, commitment, faithfulness, and challenge in the spirit of the Apostles + be an authentic local community that seeks to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’ and which, therefore, supports sustainable practices + embody genuine Catholic beliefs to counter existing misconceptions regarding the Catholic Church and its people, letting our actions witness to our faith + strive to be one Body in Christ by pursuing ecumenical ventures and always giving a favorable interpretation to others’ views as a sign of mutual respect
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