Stop in the front yard at 2002 15th Ave. S. and you’ll see this isn’t just an average house. An assortment of chairs lines the front porch, along with flower pots of all shapes and sizes. Above the front door, the exit sign is one that you might see in a movie theater or shop. Beside the front door, a bike horn hangs under a sign that reads “doorbell.”
Clearly, this is not Mom’s porch.
If you’ve made it up the front porch to the bike horn though, odds are you’ve already missed at least one of the temporary residents of Belmont’s Service Year house.
“We’re out here quite a bit,” said Carter Abel, a sophomore at the house. “It’s nice to have a front porch.”
Abel is one of six students at the small, light blue house directly across from the campus tennis courts. It has housed students participating in University Ministries’ service year project for several years.
The two seniors, two juniors and two sophomores currently at the house have a unique living arrangement with the university. They pay no housing costs to live at the university-owned property, but are required to volunteer 10-15 hours a week with an off-campus organization and are completely responsible for their own food and utilities.
What makes this group unique is not their desire to live off campus, but their shared desire for a strong, intentional and specifically Christian community.
“I felt close to people in the dorms, but the appeal of having family is really great,” said junior Jon Mitchell.
This family, one with people from around the world, is one with many different backgrounds and ideals, senior Lindsey Ricker said.
“I was wanting to surround myself with different perspectives and spiritualities that challenged my own. For me, it wasn’t so much seeking community, but an intense one and a diverse one,” she said.
Enter the house, and their sense of intentional community is obvious. Chalkboard walls surrounding the dining room are full of joint schedules, notes, quotes and plenty of inside jokes. Look at their backyard, and you can see their fall vegetable garden starting to grow its first sprouts and weeds.
It’s been more than a month since the four women and two men moved in together. They are quick to note the honeymoon period is finished.
“But everyone is wanting to make it work,” sophomore Elizabeth Kronk said. “That’s been really cool. Everyone’s just been willing to do stuff. It’s cool to have people that have your back.”
The dynamic among the group, despite their short time together, reflects that.
“We’re more unified than I thought we’d be. I’m pleasantly surprised,” Ricker said.
The transition period has been a new experience for some, but not all, of the house’s residents. This is senior Kelsey Lalman’s second year with Service Year, and Abel spent the previous year living in a similar community house in Houston.
Despite Lalman’s experience in the house, she already knows this year will be something completely different for her.
“Every year is a new year because of every resident of the house brings a completely different perspective,” she said. “I don’t think you can define this house [from year to year] because it’s the people who define it.
For Abel, the community house life is an experience he is not ready to give up yet.
“I think I’ve just looked at how much I’ve grown with that experience,” Abel said. “I felt like once I started doing that, I don’t want to do anything else. To backtrack that and fall back into the ideal American lifestyle that preaches individualism is a good thing [wouldn’t be good].”
Go back out through the front door and odds are someone will still be sitting on the porch. At times, it is the meeting point for not only the house’s residents, but also the community. Talking to neighbors straight from the porch is commonplace for the group. It’s evidence of a sense of community they all have and are trying to build on, whether through their service, intentionality, or simply living with five other people at the same time.