By Michele Gregg
The three men of Knox House wake up every morning and pray for two hours before eating a simple breakfast of oatmeal.
They came together to live intentionally, which means living without amenities that other recent college graduates take for granted. The young men have no TV, no Internet, no dishwasher, and they even keep toilet flushing to a minimum.
Brent Hendricks, Eric Colby and Greg Hess graduated from Whitworth in 2006. That fall, they decided to live out monasticism in a revolutionary way. They committed to live together in the North Central Neighborhood in Spokane for two years. Their routine includes worship, prayer, eating and reading scripture together daily. These Whitworth alumni are deeply committed to living a life of discipline, as the root of their decision came from their Whitworth experience.
All three men majored in religion and lived together at one time or another during their four college years. Theology classes exposed them to movements in the history of Christianity that emphasized discipline and community.
"Education was a big part of my decision, but it also grew out of the community I had at Whitworth," Hendricks says.
Before they moved into their new residence, the men created rules of living. This seven-page packet outlines their communal-living expectations for two years. These rules guide them through a spiritually embedded journey of discipline that they hope will carry throughout the rest of their lives.
Recently, they added a new member, David Weddle, to their community. Although Weddle is not a Whitworth alumnus, he was impressed with their lives of servanthood and wanted to be a part of their community.
For these men each day starts with a wake up call from Benedict, their rooster, at 6:30 a.m., which is two hours before the first person has to leave for work. Their morning routine consists of scripture reading, worship and prayer, followed by a bowl of oatmeal to end the devotion. Then, everyone goes his separate way for work. Each day ends with a time of reflection and prayer together. The men talk about what happened throughout the day along with areas of their lives that needs prayer.
"Our daily devotions are the backbone and the most visible part of what we do," Hendricks says.
Living with discipline is extremely important to their mission because they want to be balanced in all aspects of their lives. Intentionality for the diet of the house's residents is also important. They try to be conscious about eating healthful foods, but more than that they try to be mindful of where their food comes from and how it affects people. The scent of oatmeal and brown sugar can be recognized in their kitchen on any given morning. Most meats have been eliminated from their diet; they use tofu as a substitute. The back section of their kitchen, where plants are growing for future meals, resembles a greenhouse. The garden project started out small but will soon take over the backyard as well. Benedict the rooster shares the yard with chickens who supply the men with eggs. This lifestyle has taught them to see the effect their everyday decisions have on their community and the rest of the world.
"Living in this house has helped me to be aware of our circle of affluence, along with how we affect people," Weddle says.
More than just being intentional about their own lives, these men also want to be intentional in their relationships and in their neighborhood community. Friends and neighbors alike are invited to their house every Sunday. The Knox House men cook dinner for five to 25 people on any given Sunday night. They believe this is a good way to serve and connect with their community.
"We are trying to be a Christian presence in the neighborhood, not by passing out brochures but by building relationships and have a lasting impact," Hendricks says.
As a new member of the house, Weddle was attracted mainly to the way the community served others. Hess has braved the bitter cold more than once to shovel neighboring driveways. Every time a visitor steps into Knox House, he or she receives a friendly greeting along with tea and the undivided attention of the house's residents. Each guest is treated with the utmost respect. Raking leaves, cooking meals, befriending strangers and other simple acts of kindness are the Knox House men's mission to the surrounding neighborhood.
Whether their lifestyle intrigues or offends others, their radical approach to living has an impact upon many.
Hendricks leaves it for others to decide.
"Some people call us hippies; others call us monks. I'm not sure I qualify as either," he says.