If I lived now in closer proximity to Jubilee!, whose worshippers, like spiritual Tarzans, regularly swing on metaphoric vines in the free space between heaven and earth, there’s an excellent chance I’d be a member there. —Tom Robbins, “The Main Thing”
Circa Summer, 1988
Mark Bennett, Bill Burton and I were on the back deck of my house late at night talking about The Jubilee! Community. As a community, for 3 years we had been meeting 6 months out of each year in the basement of Central United Methodist Church in downtown Asheville. Jake Golden, the minister during those few years, was part Tarzan, part Methodist. He was our link with the big Church.
But ministers in Methodism don’t stick around and the newly appointed minister at Central who replaced Jake was not enthralled with our metaphoric vines, our music, our dancing or the fact that we were not a Methodist organization. So, on the back deck that night, Mark, Bill and I were plotting a plan – well, maybe more doodling with an idea – as to where we would go if we wanted to keep Jubilee! happening.
At that point in time, we weren’t incorporated, didn’t have a board of directors, or a five year-plan (Five year plan! Ha! We were doing good to get through one week at a time.) or a budget or paid staff or anything that usually goes with an organization. We were simply a bunch of folks (maybe 75 on a good Sunday) (like when we offered free beer) who enjoyed celebrating creation, reveling in being alive and engaging in opportunities to make this world a better place. Actually, the beer never happened. But we did ponder the idea.
There may well have been alcohol involved, however, on that late night meeting on the back deck. I can’t remember. Mark Bennett and Bill Burton were successful businessmen who attended our Jubilee! celebrations, swung on the metaphoric vines, helped us serve meals to the homeless and wanted to see Jubilee! continue. But we needed a place.
“I want you to dream,” Mark said to me at maybe 1:00 in the morning. “I want you to dream of what you would like the space for Jubilee! to be. Don’t think about the money. That’s obviously not your forte. Just dream what might be.” And what he was saying, I think now in retrospect, was, “Grab a vine. Grab one of those metaphoric vines and swing your imagination into the free space between earth and heaven and let’s see where we go.”
Which is what Jubilee! has been doing ever since. Now we have a Board of Directors. We have a budget and staff. We (and the bank) own a building that we have renovated and are gradually paying off. And, we have far more than 75 folks who show up every Sunday even without free beer.
But, we are still dreaming and still swinging on these metaphoric vines in the free space between heaven and earth. One vine is called “The Main Thing.” One vine is called “Celebrating Creation.” Another is called “Social Justice.” Another, “Care and Compassion.” We sing, we dance, we dream, we hug, we feed the hungry. We read the Bible. We read Mary Oliver. We read Hafiz and Matthew Fox and Tom Robbins. We sing Grateful Dead and Mumford and Sons and Jimmy Buffet. We chant in Hindu and Arabic and Hebrew. So many vines; so little time.
On Sunday, August 13, 2017, Jubilee! will celebrate our 28th dance around the sun. We will celebrate with cake and chocolate and balloons. We will celebrate with hugs and music and dance. And, we will feed the hungry while we sing, “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies… Lord of all, to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise!”
Come, you spiritual Tarzans! Come grab a vine and let’s swing through that open space between heaven and earth as we do all we can to make this world a more just and loving place.
It was Mark Bennett and Bill Burton who provided the funds which enabled us to rehab the building and move in on the 2nd Sunday of August 1989. They are true Founders of Jubilee!