Principles of St. Francis House

  1. Nonviolence  This is the foundational value. Gandhi called it ahimsa, and it means much more than refraining from killing. It is our “way of life”, involving conversion of heart in order to honor all creation as of equal value with ourselves. We believe nonviolence is the law of the universe and we aim to live in harmony with all of creation. There are people and values we are willing to die for, but not to kill for.
  2. Truth  Truth likewise is a foundational value. No one religion or philosophy has a monopoly on truth, and neither do we. Our commitment is to the truth itself, and to spending our lives seeking truth, being open to truth wherever it appears, and however others apprehend it.
  3. Non-possession  The root of war and violence is possessiveness. While human beings cannot live without material things—food, clothing, shelter—and relationships, when we turn those goods into commodities and seek to possess them, they possess us, and drive us to violence to protect them. When we achieve personal and communal self-control, we can use good things and not be used by them or destroy others in order to acquire them. Self-rule and personal responsibility are spiritual disciplines for us.
  4. Right Relationship  Right relationship is the fundamental virtue of faithful human relationships, not only sexual relations. It involves openness to all people and sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfillment. Right relationship is the form non-possession takes in personal relationships.
  5. Local Economy  Gandhi called this swadeshi and saw the revival of local economy – in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our houses and businesses – as the primary vehicle for individual self-control and communal independence. Use of locally grown food and other goods is not only healthy, it builds community with our neighbors who are farmers and artisans.
  6. Work  Creative work is one of the most satisfying human achievements. Physical work is not less valuable than artistic or intellectual work. Our bodies need physical work for their well-being and our spirits need work to express our creativity. Shared work is a source of joy. Living is not something we earn, but something we do.
  7. Respect for all beings  Respect for our families and neighbors is only the beginning of an attitude of respect for all beings. Such an attitude leads us to combat racism, sexism, class and ethnic prejudices and other forms of oppression, but also to reject “speciesism” and the attitude that all of “nature” is available for human domination and destruction.
  8. Respect for all religions  St. Francis House is an intentional Christian community, and our corporate worship is normally Christian but we do not therefore disrespect other religious traditions. We have learned from many traditions, and incorporated much of our learning into our community life. Like others, we are – and always will be – seekers.
  9. Fearlessness  We commit to support each other and our neighbors in courageous witness to the truth as we are given to see it and practice it, realizing that there will be practical consequences to our witness as we resist unjust social and economic structures. But living differently is dangerous. We seek to be free from fear always and everywhere, because we trust Martin Luther King, Jr.’s faith that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
  10. Community  All of us were raised in an individualistic culture that values competition over cooperation and greed more than generosity. To overcome this training, we commit ourselves to community. We desire to be accountable to one another for our actions and practices. We pledge to support each other in our personal growth, but we recognize that genuine spiritual growth is never merely individual. The practice of community, so lacking in our culture, is essential for our growth in nonviolence and our quest for the truth. Consensus decision-making is more than finding common ground among ourselves. It is discerning the mind of Christ.

The living of these principles, values, or vows, can only be achieved by the practice of spiritual disciplines designed to open our lives, as individuals and as a community, to the power that Christians call the Holy Spirit. We are committed, therefore, to forms of common prayer, personal meditation and contemplation, study and work to achieve the goals of community and be a model for our friends and neighbors in New London and the wider world.

6 August 2009/revised