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.

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One thought on “community life – and my sunny weekend

  1. James might be interested to know that my friends at Beech Grove were speaking approvingly of the Jesus Army when I saw them on Saturday – apparently some JA guys had been over to visit. Which is really interesting when you think about it – it would be hard to imagine theologies any more different than the bruderhof anabaptism and the Jesus Army charismatic evangelicalism. The fact that they could communicate at all is a testament and credit to both.

    With reference to the other stuff, I’m increasingly thinking that church is not actually offering what people need. I think people (or some at least) are looking for something to believe in and be committed to, yet the forms of church offer little attractive in terms of commitment and tend to burn out those who try to be committed.

    For me, I think this is partly about outdated and outmoded forms of praise service (who really wants to turn up somewhere at 11am on a Sunday. I mean, really) and the lack of serious teaching with regard to discipleship. Where there is a call to be involved in the work of God, this is usually given as a call to be involved in the running of the church. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a call in any church service for people to get involved in work outside. No, I think might have once I once heard a politician say more Christians should get involved in local politics…

    For me, we need a total reorientation of church. Our focus should be on Jesus Christ, not the forms of church or the building or our comfy little club. And it seems to me that focussing on him will inevitably focus our attention onto our neighbour, because loving our neighbour is loving God.

    Then church will be the place where we are challenged, supported, enthused, held up etc in order to do the other stuff. Not an end in itself.

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