An important part of my experience at St. Paul’s is living in community. Five of us share quarters in the collegio above the offices and parish hall. Our church sexton is from Mali, the refugee center peacekeeper and manager is from Afghanistan (both are refugees), and the former and current organ scholar are from the UK. Together, we (mostly they) speak something like ten languages, listen to a wide and overlapping range of music and worship the one God as Christians and Muslims.

IMG_2892.jpegEveryone has a small bedroom, furnished with an assortment of vintage pieces, odd wall art and IKEA through the ages. We share the kitchen, bath, and washer (We have drying racks in our rooms). A fall Saturday cleanup eliminated layers of what used to be food from unknown prior residents, reclaiming the kitchen for the living and scoring us each a IMG_2895.jpegsecond shelf of precious pantry space to accompany our personal under-the-counter fridges. And the upgrades! We now have decent overhead lighting, a new oven and working stove-top knobs (all from Amazon) and a fresh set of IKEA food preparation knives.

My son has commented that his dad now lives in a dorm. And what a great dorm it is! It’s not unusual for us to be gathered together on a rainy evening in the kitchen, the mixed scents of several cuisines on the burner, someone video-calling a friend or relative on another continent, while the evening call to prayer rings out on someone’s phone app. (This is a universal thing it seems. We typically use the Mission St. Clare app for Morning Prayer, and my Muslim colleagues have apps that make the call to prayer at the proper times throughout the day.)

The residential St. Paul’s community extends to the rector and his family, who live two floors above and staff semi-residents who gather daily in the cramped office on the ground floor. Of course, living in community, as any monk will tell you, offers great life lessons, not all of them easy or pleasant. That said, it is a joy to have such wonderful, kind and fun flatmates. In the US, I patter around a small house that is now mostly an empty nest. Here, it’s cramped and wonderful. My collegio flatmates and friends rock my missionary life in Rome.


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