Political Devotions
Public Spaces
The beauty of proximity

The beauty of proximity

In Arlandria, three young women live with undocumented immigrants (and with cockroaches, bedbugs, and rats) to learn Jesus's public way

20-minute episode. In 2007, three recent college grads had no intention of starting Casa Chirilagua. But it happened. Casa now serves more than 100 families with after-school programs, mentorships, adult classes, and leadership development in Arlandria, a largely Latino community just south of Arlington that the first Salvadorian immigrants nicknamed Chirilagua.

The three grads moved into one of the community’s worst apartment complexes and started learning from their new community.

While they moved in to learn, they moved in also to break out of an individualistic, middle-class evangelicalism and to meet the public God. And they wanted to find out what “love your neighbor” really means.

Some weekend street life along Mt. Vernon Ave. in Arlandria

This episode starts with Victoria’s realization that she doesn’t want to live her life as just a spectator. She watches Ethiopian parents and children dancing at her school’s cultural festival, and she suddenly longs to be part of a community of public participants.

Matt Pritchard, a college pastor who has helped to start a number of intentional communities, including the one that lead to Casa, discusses his own journey to living purposefully with others and the journey of the three young women, Dawnielle Miller, Julia Simerly, and Emily Mancia, whom he supported as they started their intentional community in Chirilagua.

Kate Denson, Casa’s Director of Volunteer Engagement, talks about Casa’s early days. When three of her friends started an intentional community in Chirilagua, she was helping to start one in Anacostia and was keeping in touch with them.

Adriana Gómez Schellhaas, a 2022 Washingtonian of the Year and until recently Casa’s Executive Director, explains why Casa Chirilagua as a resource is secondary to Chirilagua as a creative, resilient, and generous community. Adriana shares how living in Chirilagua helps her stay grounded in a central tenet of her faith—loving her neighbors.

An apartment building just behind Casa’s headquarters leased from the City of Alexandria

My thanks to Moire for the licensed use of “Cicades” and to All Good Folks for the licensed use of “What Up!” from Uppbeat.

Looking north along Mt. Vernon Ave.
The back of the Birchmere Music Hall in Chirilagua
Victoria in Chirilagua
Political Devotions
Public Spaces
Public Spaces chronicles two suburban émigrés' encounters with city people creating different kinds of local, public life.
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Appears in episode
Bryce Tolpen