by Raven Glomus
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (otherwise known as the FEC) is a network that tries to keep the communes connected with each other. We have a once a month call where the delegates from various communes talk with each other. Last month, on the call, someone joked that the FEC currently was five folks, the same five folks (representing four communities) that had been on the call for several months. (Fortunately, this month, we had six folks on the call, including someone from a west coast community that hadn’t been on the call in several months.)
We generally have an assembly for the FEC every year (although, due to the pandemic, it may not happen this year). I was looking at the essay I wrote for the assembly that was held in December, 2018 ( published in January, 2019 ). I am struck by the number of attending communities that are now no longer with the FEC. Part of it was the demise of the three urban communes that were part of the FEC. But while the urban communes spectacularly fell apart, it feels like there are many rural communes that are just fading away.
I think that Oran Mor, where the assembly was held, is now down to one member and her family. Sadder to me is that Sandhill, which had been an income sharing community since 1974 and was one of the founding members of the FEC, is also down to two families and my understanding is that they are no longer income sharing. Ionia, in Alaska, is still around, but they no longer seem interested in the FEC. There are a few other rural communes that are still ongoing but, since they are in sparse to no contact with the FEC, it’s hard to tell what condition they are in.
The pandemic, of course, figures into this, but so does the regular boom and bust cycle of commune building. It seems like 2018 was the end of a boom cycle and we seem to be in a bust cycle now–with the pandemic on top of that. Twin Oaks, the biggest and longest running of the secular communes, is at their lowest membership in many years and, with the pandemic, they aren’t able to bring in a lot of new members.
Still, the term “low ebb” comes from a discussion about the tides, and describes the point where things are farthest out. What happens next is that the tide begins coming back in. Similarly, I have chosen to use low ebb in the title just because I think things will begin changing soon.
In spite of how it feels, the pandemic won’t last forever. The 2018 Assembly was not a happy occasion. Things were very difficult at both East Wind and Acorn Community. A year later, both East Wind and Acorn were on the upswing, while it was Twin Oaks that was having difficulties–and just before the pandemic hit, they started getting some new folks in. Here at Glomus Commune (formerly East Brook) we are having a very good year this year in spite of the pandemic. We have four income sharing members (the FEC now requires a community to have five in order to be a full member community) and I think that we might well have six income sharing members by the end of the year.
Finally, I think that in the long run, the pandemic may well benefit the communes. This seems true economically: Acorn’s seed business is booming and I also think that some of Twin Oaks and East Wind’s businesses have actually done better because of panic buying. More importantly, the FIC (Foundation for Intentional Community–the larger communities organization) reported a “sharp uptick” in searches for communities following the onset of the pandemic. People have been realizing the benefits of communal living and I would not be surprised if membership in the communes grows as the pandemic ebbs, and I also think people who have been thinking of starting a commune or community may well decide to just do it once they can.
I would like us to find a way of moving beyond the boom and bust scenario and figure out how to stabilize the communes, but for now, I think that it’s important to build and maintain what we have and look hopefully at the future.