A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is part four of a series. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here. Note the warning that this is for commune geeks.)

The millennium began (or perhaps ended, to be precise) with the April, 2000, Assembly. Participants seemed to be Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, and Skyhouse. Twin Oaks reported a population of 76, East Wind 50, Sandhill 5, and Acorn 16.

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Jolly Ranchers, Terra Nova, and Tekiah all still seemed to be part of the FEC but didn’t appear  to have made it to this Assembly. Topics discussed at the 2000 Assembly included Paxus proposing a software co-op, another proposal (unclear who from) for an FEC video project, and something about East Wind being less engaged in the FEC.

There were two Assemblies in 2001. The first one was in April and was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. It was reported that Tree was no longer at Acorn but was still serving as the FEC secretary.  (Tree Bresson is a facilitator and consensus expert who was the FEC secretary for many years, even when no longer living in an FEC commune.  Rejoice, the current FEC secretary, remarked on this at the last FEC assembly.) It was also mentioned that Laird was absent. (Laird Schuab is community and facilitation consultant who lived for many years at Sandhill and was also the long time Executive Secretary of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities–the FIC, often confused with the FEC.) And, finally, there was a note that Common Threads was no longer a Community in Dialogue. (Sadly, Common Threads, a community that I helped form and lived at, dissolved in the summer of 2000. We referred to it as our own Y2K problem.)

There was a second Assembly in December of 2001, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, and Acorn, as well as two new communities, Aspenwood and Heathcote.  Apparently, Heathcote became a Community in Dialogue at that Assembly.

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Heathcote in October of 2001

2002 seemed a banner year for Assemblies. There were three, in May, July, and December. The May Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Aspenwood, and Heathcote. There were no notes about what actually happened at this Assembly.

The July Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. The main topic of discussion seems to have been PEACH, the umbrella health insurance project of the FEC. At that point, the worth of PEACH was listed as $400,000. The members of PEACH were listed as Twin Oaks, Acorn, East Wind, Jolly Ranchers, Kindness House (the first time I have heard of it), Sandhill, Skyhouse, and Terra Nova.  

The December Assembly was very well attended, featuring Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, and Emerald Earth. (I will have to say that I am impressed that Beacon Hill House and the Jolly Ranchers made to all three Assemblies that year, since both of them are out in Seattle on the west coast and most of the Assemblies took place in Virginia or Missouri.)  The only note from the Assembly was that Beacon Hill House wanted a stronger social justice focus. (I will add a personal note about Meadowdance. When I visited them, early on, I heard that they were opposed to the FEC income-sharing philosophy. Then they joined the FEC. Later they left, saying it was a big mistake. Like any community, I think that Meadowdance had different people in it with different opinions. Apparently, the direction they went in depended on who held sway.)

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There was only one Assembly in 2003, held in May. It was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, and ecofarm. (Apparently ecofarm was another one time Assembly visitor.)

There were two Assemblies in 2004, one in May and one in September.

The May Assembly was packed: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School (formerly Beacon Hill House), the Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, shivalila (this is the first of only two Assemblies that they attended), Terra Nova, Heathcote, Oran Mor (the first Assembly for this small but long term FEC member–formed by four ex-East Winders), Tekiah, and Ganas. The agenda seemed packed as well.  They discussed racism in the FEC, talked about creating an income-sharing starter kit, talked about questions of the FEC as a mediator (none of these things for the last time). Violence at East Wind was discussed. “Sorrel and Matt identified three negative patterns at EW: unwanted sexual attention, alcohol abuse, and yelling/volatile verbal exchanges.” Facilitation training was talked about. And there was a note that Tree was paid $2000 for 200 hours of work.

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One of the buildings at Oran Mor 

The September, 2004, Assembly was also fairly well attended: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, the Jolly Ranchers, Aspenwood, shivalila (for the second and last time), Heathcote, Oran Mor, Tekiah, Phoenix Ranch (another two Assembly attendee), and Springtree (who last showed up in April of 1989).  Some of these communities were in trouble. While Twin Oaks and East Wind remained stable at 76 and 50 members, Acorn went from 16 members at the May Assembly to 3 members. (Note, the rapidity of the change is probably more a function of how it was reported. I will have more to say on this later.)  The Jolly Ranchers also reported 3 members and Tekiah reported 2. The notes said it clearly. Jolly Ranchers were “dissolving” and Tekiah was “failing”. East Wind’s alcohol problem was discussed, along with something called “commune on a bus”. The ‘allied community’ status was also created at this Assembly. Although Ganas wasn’t there, I am pretty sure that it was created for them.  Ganas was never an ‘egalitarian’ community (something they are quick to say), but they have had a long relationship with the FEC, especially with Twin Oaks. This status allows them to remain in relationship but makes it clear that they are not interested in pursuing full membership (which is the direction Communities in Dialogue are supposed to be going).

The August, 2005, Assembly (the only one listed for that year) was also well attended, with Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, Terra Nova, Heathcote, Ganas, Phoenix Ranch, and Red Earth all listed as being there. Both Jolly Ranchers and Tekiah are no longer on the chart, so apparently neither of them made it.  It’s interesting that Red Earth shows up for the first of several times. (It’s a homesteading community, with each homestead organized differently–although one or two of them are income-sharing, I can’t see why the whole community would be represented.) In spite of the large attendance at the Assembly, there were no topics listed as being discussed.

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Dandelion, an income-sharing sub-community of Red Earth Farms 

2006 had two Assemblies, one in January and one in July. The January Assembly featured Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Alpha, which I am assuming meant Alpha Farm. The anti oppression clause was discussed.

The July attendees were almost the same, except Alpha (or Alpha Farm) wasn’t there. The only note was that Tigger became the treasurer, which is noteworthy because he only recently left that position.

There were two Assemblies in 2007 as well, in January and June. Both were attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Oran Mor. The only notable differences were that Echowood also attended the June Assembly and there was a note from the January Assembly that Aspenwood had closed.

The notes for 2008 are confusing. The columns on the spreadsheet that I am getting most of this information from are for February, 08, followed by January, 05, followed by November, 08. I am going to ignore the January 05 entries. Another confusing thing is that the Twin Oaks population was listed as 76 for June of 2007 and 92 for February, 2008, a rather rapid increase. (The fact that the listed population of Acorn goes from 3 as of March, 2009, to 30 in March of 2010, makes me even more suspicious. I think they must keep listing the same population until someone tells them that it has changed.)  Both February and November list Twin Oaks (with its now larger population), East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Red Earth as attending, with Heathcote being at the February Assembly (their last Assembly) and Oran Mor and Echowood being at the November Assembly. No topics were listed for the February Assembly, but there seemed to have been a discussion about the expansion fund at the November Assembly.

Finally, there was an Assembly in March of 2009, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and two one-time attendees, the 529 Collective and Teaching Drum.  There were no notes about what was discussed.

Which brings us to the current decade, what I am calling the Ten and Teens Decade.  That will be the final installment of this series, next month!

As always, if you were a part of this history, or know information about this period, and want to add or correct, please let us know in the comments.

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A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

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