Entering Community

My dog walking through the dining room at our new home.

My last post on this site, almost two months ago, detailed all the changes that had occurred in my life during 2022. I ended by describing my plan to move to Milwaukee to be near my oldest son and his family. I’ve been in Milwaukee since January 7, and I thought I would write a little about where I’m living and what it has been like so far.

Back when I first was thinking about moving, my daughter-in-law sent me a link to the website for a Christian community in the area. It was a household associated with a church she and my son had been members of years earlier. The household is intended for Christian singles. The idea is to provide a place where Christians can “live out the teachings of Christ through the daily practices of prayer, work, and relationships.” 

I visited the house a few times starting in September. I had envisioned something like a monastic community, and some features are similar. The residents don’t make any sort of vows, though, and they all work full-time jobs, so they aren’t together throughout the day. I had lived communally for a year when I was in graduate school, and it had been a positive experience. So why not communal living now?

I knew that one of the difficult things about moving to a new city would be making new friends. After my mom’s death, I was too isolated, despite having several good friends and a few relatives nearby. If I moved into a house or condo in Milwaukee by myself, the isolation would be even greater. Having ready-made relationships sounded good! It also appealed to me that the community prayed together. I had been praying mostly by myself for years, and found it challenging to keep my prayers from being stale and repetitious. Communal prayer seemed something that could benefit my faith journey.

On the other hand, moving into a house with several other people sounded daunting. Would I have enough privacy? I would only have one room; what would I do with all of my stuff? Communal living is not the sort of thing that someone in his seventies does! How would I fit with a bunch of people younger than me?

An alternative might have been an independent living facility for older adults, but those places are too homogeneous for my taste and the focus isn’t on continued engagement in the larger community, which I prefer. A mixed-age house with a focus on intentional spiritual practices might be just what I needed. If not, I wouldn’t lose anything by giving it a try. Despite my misgivings, I decided that such a move made sense. I agreed to a six month trial period.

There are six of us here, all guys. I’m the only one who has been married. One of the founders is about 10 years younger than me, and everyone else in the house is at least 30 years younger than I am. Surprisingly, I don’t feel particularly out of place. I am the only one working from the house, so I’m here by myself from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. We have three meals together during the week, meaning that we are on our own for most meals. There is a regular prayer time at 5:30 every day, but it’s not required and usually there are only two or three of us praying together. I have a pretty good balance between time with others (either those in the household or in my son’s family) and time alone. I’ve gotten to know the person closest to me in age pretty well, and I’m gradually getting to know the others. There’s a bit of conflict between the two original members of the community, mainly over differing views of how the community should function. Otherwise, everyone gets along well. The household is big on hospitality; about twice a week, there are guests at mealtime. Overall, it’s a fairly healthy, fairly functional community.

So, will I stay past the six months? I don’t know, but at present I’m inclined to. I wonder why more single, divorced, or widowed people of retirement age don’t live in an arrangement like this: there are lots of positives. I hope to write at least a couple more times in the next few months as a way of processing the benefits and disadvantages of being here. If anyone who is reading this has tried something similar, I’d love to hear what your experience was like.


About Bob Ritzema

I am a fourth-generation American of Dutch ancestry and am trained as a clinical psychologist. In 2012, I retired from Methodist University in North Carolina to return to . Michigan to help family, and, in 2023, I started again with a move to Milwaukee to be near my children. I maintain a part-time therapy practice. I can be reached at bobritzema@hotmail.com.
This entry was posted in Psyche, Relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Entering Community

  1. dw says:

    Hello Bob,

    I’m glad to hear about your experience so far in Milwaukee. It sounds like the transition is going well.

    I haven’t ever lived in setting like you describe, but I did rent a rooms in houses during most of my college years. One of the situations was similar, in that we often ate dinner together and would pray together from time to time. It was a good situation for me while single.

    ‘Intentionality’ scares me – I have seen it be a justification too many times for power struggles. So a formal situation with anyone saying ‘this is how we are going to live together’ – makes me nervous. I hope the conflict is minimal and resolves in a good way.

    I look forward to hearing how things progress.

    Grace and peace to you…


    • Bob Ritzema says:

      So far, this seems like a good setting for me. It stretches me some to be living in a household with five others, and that’s good for me. I understand your concern about intentionality. From what I can tell, there was more of a power struggle a while ago, with the result that those who want their vision to be shared by the entire house have realized that won’t happen and won’t pursue the issue further. We’ll see whether I’m perceiving that accurately.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s