Intentional Community in East Kent

My good friend Joe is looking at setting up some kind of intentional community in East Kent where he lives. If you’re interested, intrigued, suspicious, or have anything to say about such an idea, I’m sure he’d be pleased to hear from you. http://thetheologyofjoe.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/intentional-community-in-east-kent/

Intentional Community in East Kent

radicals and conservatives

there has been an interesting theological/philosophical discussion going on over at Kester Brewin’s blog. It began as a query as to whether the at times avant garde theology propounded by Pete Rollins, Kester and others was running into opposition, but it has become more about the nature of radical and conservative thinking. If you want to read it all from the beginning then it began with Kester’s first post here, which should be read right through down the string of comments.

Richard Passmore then chipped in to talk about Transitology, Kester blogged again and now Pete Rollins has had a little say too, explaining that both radicals and conservatives are fundamentally backward looking.

It’s an interesting exercise to reflect upon what the word radical really means, and how that reflects upon theology and ecclesiology.

I would contend that new monasticism is a radical movement in that it seeks to go back to the root of discipleship, however you might say that in adopting practises which have been modelled by other movements it is also a conservative movement. Pete suggests that to hark back to the early church is to adopt a conservative approach, I suppose it depends what the root is one is seeking to return to. If you’re looking more at practise than theology, then your root may be the early church or certainly Jesus, if your root is theology over praxis, then perhaps it goes even deeper.

Perhaps the radical and conservative split is where I think the difference is to be found between the emerging church and the fresh expressions movement – I think of the emerging church as being inherently radical, wheras the fresh expressions scene has always seemed a bit conservative to me.

Anyway, I’m just muttering, its an interesting converation with clever things expounded by people much brainier than me, apparently it all comes from discussions had at Greenbelt and Wild Goose Fest earlier this summer – neither of which I was at. I reccomend you go read.

radicals and conservatives

Interested in simplifying your lifestyle?

If you are interested in digging deeper into simplicity, decluttering your life (physically and metaphorically) and living altogether more lightly – you should look at the Breathe Network.

Breathe is effectively an online network of people who are dealing with the intersection of physical simplicity and spiritual richness. It dubs itself ‘A Christian network for simpler living’ and if that sounds like your kind of thing, I reccomend you head straight over there and have a bit of a look around.

Its not all online either, the ‘Enough‘ gathering in October is an attempt to bring together like minded folks for some face to face discussion and friendship.

HT to James for tipping me off about them in the first place.

And (shameless plug alert) if community living and simplicity are part of the way you are thinking of walking these days, yo ucould do worse than read my book, ‘Totally Devoted‘ which looks at a number of intentional communities active in the UK today.

Interested in simplifying your lifestyle?

Interested in hearing Shane Claiborne speak this summer?

If you are interested in Shane Claiborne and want to hear him speak, but you live in the UK and can’t scrape the airfare together to hop over to Philly – then fear not. The new monasticism fairy has waved her magic wand and if you are so inclined cinderella, then you may go to the ball…

The Upside down Kingdom tour is happening this summer, with newly wed Shane bringing his counter cultural message to the British massive.

With music from the Rend collective, the tour will be kicking off in Ballymena, Co Antrim on the 19th of August, before heading to Coleford, Gloucestershire on the 24th, Southhampton on the 25th, Birmingham on the 26th, and landing in Greenbelt on the 27th. After that its Burslem in Stoke on t 28th, London on the 30th, Bromley on the 31st, Halifax on the 1st of September, Perth on the 2nd, and finishing up at Woodlands church in Bristol on the 3rd.

Full details can be found on the tour website, so head along there if you want to know more.

Interested in hearing Shane Claiborne speak this summer?

Totally Devoted – reviews

My book seems to be undergoing a small spike in sales, I wonder if that is to do with the review which I am told appears in Christianity magazine this month – and which declares (amongst other kind words):

If the Church is in ruins, then this book is part of the repair kit!

Which is kind of nice. And a little worrying. I mean, y’know – that’s a big responsibility!

Anyway, feel free to write your own review, but only if you are willing to say nice things – if you don’t like it, then shhhhh!

You can get the book here, here, here and indeed here. Apparently there may even be a bookshop or two with it in!

Totally Devoted – reviews

community life – and my sunny weekend

I spent most of Friday and Saturday at the house of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, near Leeds. It’s the second trip I’ve made there this year, and I enjoyed it even more than last time.

For one thing, this time I was joined by my friend James, who blogs here and tweets @n0rma1 – this was James’ first visit, and I was really encouraged to see how much kinship there is between his kind of new monasticism and the older monasticism/religious life that is to be found there.  It makes me think that my book was about right on that.

It’s great to see how links are forged between communities, and principally between individuals who represent different communities. It is sometimes only by making those face to face visits that we recognise the humanity in one another, and see past the preconceptions or societal stereotypes.

I also relished the opportunity to spend some time in quiet, and feel reinvigorated now, ready to dive into more preparations for meditation workshops, MBS fayre stuff, books, community projects and so on.

I was also encouraged by something I read in the Tablet, which was an article by Christopher Jamison in which he wrote about the way that so many people try to minister to those around them by inviting them to Mass – or to a general church service if you’re a protestant. What we are doing, points out Jamison, is adding another level of busyness to already overburdened lives – people genuinely have a lot to do. What we would be better doing is finding ways for people to experience peace in their everyday lives, rather than adding a new level of activity.

I agree with this – only this weekend I heard somebody talking about how we should be inviting people to church, by which this person meant a church service. For many of the people I know though, Sunday morning is about the only time of rest they get, going to church would put the kiebosh on that too. I’m much more interested in finding ways to help people create oases of peace in the everyday, to experience the justice, peace and joy which we talk about often, but dont tend to generate in sunday morning meetings.

Dont get me wrong, I’m not trying to abolish church ‘services’ only trying to encourage us to make more of our ‘service’ to others, and not to limit church to congregational meetings.

People who have heard me talk recently about ‘post congregationl church’ will perhaps see what I mean here – our view of what it means to be church is too often stuck in a rut of ‘meeting attendees’ – lets make our church wider and broader, and turn our towns into temples.  (Also our villages, cities, estates etc, just that towns and temples scan nicely.)

It was so good to spend time at the monastery this weekend, I can thoroughly reccomend it as a great place to visit – especially when the weather is good, as the garden is glorious.

One of the brothers there also mentioned this piece from the guardian by Toby Jones, a lovely chap whose own community is a great example of what it might mean to create something along kind of new monastic lines. His column in the observer is now over, but it makes great re-reading, and you can look back through it to see just what sort of journey Toby and his family have been on recently.

In our case of course, the reality is somewhat less glamorous. We’re yet to see whether we will stay here beyond the summer, or whether there will be pastures new on the horizon. The house we want to move into here hasnt yet become available – although we’re still hoping. But even if it does, there’s no saying what rental price tag it will come with. Presumably somewhat more than our current abode.

We’re also really in need of more people to work alongside us – ours is a new monastic vocation really, and if you’re calling is partly to prayer, partly to study, and partly to service – then you’re in the same groove as us – so why not get in touch.

community life – and my sunny weekend

The great silence – a digital response

I spend quite a lot of time thinking about the way that monastic and religious orders, order their lives. I can see great wisdom in the concept of ordering the day around non negotiable times of spiritual activity, and I have been working for some time to try and order my own life similarly.

One aspect I have thought quite a bit about, and found most difficult to implement is the concept of silence. In a monastery, the ‘great silence’ or ‘big silence’ is (depending upon the way of the particular order in question) between Compline (roughly 9pm) and Terce (9am) so for half the day there is a silence, punctuated only by times of prayer.

The silence represents not so much the absence of sound, but the absence of interpersonal communication. The idea is that this time is reserved for meditation, prayer, reflection, and of course sleep where you can get it.

But how do you attempt to implement something like this when you are not in a monastery? In my house, silence between 7am and 9am for instance is not a possibility, nor is it possible between 9pm and 11pm most nights.  I get away with the rest because either I, or everyone else is probably asleep for most of it.

However, on reflection I have been wondering if a suitable solution may not be found in digital silence.

I already practise digital silence – apart from the occasional abberation – during the weekend, surely it couldnt be too hard for me to practise it between 9pm and 9am, or possibly 9.30 to 9.30 too? As I usually work up to about 10pm, this will hack an hour or two off my computer working time, but I sure I could claw that back by less reading of online newspapers and other blogs – perhaps my blog feeds will take a bit of a cut to acheive this.

I know that once my computer is on in the morning, the chances of me taking time out to meditate are gone, I have to do it before I download my email or else I am too distracted. If I miss an early morning meditation slot, then in ordinary circumstances my chances of making space in the morning are slim.

Anyway, just thinking out loud really – in the spirit of looking at computer use as digital communication. I am planning to implement this from next week, and I’ll let you know how I get along.

The great silence – a digital response