A beacon is regarded by many people as a symbol. But it’s more. If it does its job, it’s also functional in the way it warns and welcomes travelers. It’s inspirational, in that it can be a harbinger of hope. And it’s motivational, too: those who have been helped by a beacon as they’ve made their way are likely to help create more of them, wherever they go.
In our land today, we need more beacons of what it is to create gospel-centered community in atypical ways – places that represent a “long view” and relational orientation in the midst of a transactional culture. We need to reclaim the iconic front porch in a day when most neighbors don’t talk much. We need intergenerational churches. We need more round-tabling, public confabs, eclectic reading societies, and discussion groups that collaborate for the common good. We need communities (or city spaces) small enough so we know other people, and know what it is to be known.
And we need to reclaim our Tables, those places where we gather to eat and drink and dialogue together with people we love – and people new or different to us. Reagan made this point well in his Farewell Address:
All great change in America begins at the dinner table.
Indeed, all these places matter! They matter more than we might think if we really want to create flourishing communities, and help encourage weary souls. Churchill was right when he said:
We shape our places; and thereafter our places shape us.
This is why we’re working together with you to create a place called Magnalia Homestead. We think Semper Fi Hall (1775 era) can be a beacon for old-fashioned meal hall revelry. We think Walden Cabin and Camp Paradise (1845 era) can be a beacon for the importance of being quiet before God. We think our Pole Barn and Village Blacksmith Shoppe and our OnePull Community Garden can be a beacon for the importance of gathering around shared work and meals and life-on-life mentoring and ministry – including veterans who have paid a price for our freedom, and those who have special needs and remind us of the grace that comes from celebrating the dignity and unique abilities of all people.
We think a Hobbit-hole pub in a North Carolina forest matters, and so we’re digging and designing it. Yes, we think we need more places that feel like a Shire: not pretentious, but humble, and warm, with gentle breezes of beauty mingled with wafts of sweat and images of toil, as people work and learn and create community together. Tolkien’s description of the Shire “in the middle part of the country” is not spectacular but it resonates: “a small but beautiful and fruitful land, beloved by its inhabitants.”
It was home.
We think future gathering places like the Parish House Chapel, The White Oak Amphitheater and The Jubilee Event Barn all matter in the effort to bring people together in a spirit of celebration of things Beautiful, Good and True. And it matters to make these spaces accessible and welcoming to anyone, no matter their means, background, or resources.
Magnalia has been set aside to be a shared and special space, connecting on historical and literary past with a more flourishing future.
We know that what we’re doing together with all Magnalia’s partners may seem like a drop in the bucket as we witness a society “atomizing” and, in many ways, unravelling. Each new month, it seems, some thread is pulled from the tapestry of community life that many of us experienced (and perhaps have taken for granted) in previous seasons of our lives.
But the Lord of heaven and earth is doing exceptional things. Relationships with God and man are being restored and renewed here, in the Lord’s providence. It’s a mercy to witness it. We’re grateful to have heard from many that the Homestead is a “home away from home” for them. In spite busy professional, church and family lives, consider this:
In 2023, we’ve hosted (by our best count) more than 1,700 guests from near and far with the love of Christ. And literally dozens from that number are fashioning their own roundtables, homesteads, and other community-creating initiatives that are bringing gospel hope to people who need it.
The budgets connected to this vision are “scrappy” but not small, and we cannot do it alone. Rachel and I have gifted 12 acres of land to get the Foundation started, and have provided match funding for every project undertaken by the Foundation to date. We expect to continue to be its major donors and fundraisers as the Lord enables us. We hope (together with family members) to steward this vision and ministry until our days are through, and to see it become a hub for faithful ministry for generations beyond us.
The incredible generosity of people like you in the past year has prodded us onward. We’re more excited than ever. And our mission has become even clearer to us in this past year:
Magnalia Homestead Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to be a welcoming shelter and a beacon of hope for people by fostering community-creating experiences, offering “soul care hospitality,” and curating related educational programs on its 12-acre property in North Carolina.
If this mission and work is compelling to you and makes sense as a part of your giving strategy, we’d be blessed to have Magnalia Homestead Foundation be a stewardship partner of yours. You can find a legacy project to support alongside us, or consider other ways to participate with us. And you might keep us in your prayers.
It’s fitting to close by noting that places, including our homes, are of course temporal. Instead of being idols, they’re meant to help us spiritually by pointing us on toward our eternal home. That’s why we consecrate places to God, and bring them to purposeful existence with other people, and with open hands and our palms up.
We pray that this place, and YOUR place, will be blessed by the Lord and create shalom for others in this new year. Thank you for the privilege – the honor – of being friends with you, and partners in creating gospel-centered community, together, all around the world.
With love and affection,
Jim, Rachel, and the Magnalia Family
P.S. If you think there’s something missing on this Magnalia 50/50 Community Partners list, please reach out to us and let us know! People have added ideas to the Participate page on our site as well.
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