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.
Tobias Jones has a new column in the Observer, which you can find here. Toby and his wife Francesca have an unusal ‘extended’ household home in a Somerset woodland, which used to be the site of a quarry. They are learning as they go, and its very much an adventurous journey of exploration. They take their inspiration from the sermon on the mount, and are exploring what it means to live accordingly.Part of that inspiration has come through their involvement with the Pilsdon community, which was detailed in Toby’s excellent ‘Utopian Dreams‘. Tobias is a lovely guy, and I look forward to visiting his home one day.
The very clever, witty, and annoyingly wise Tobias Jones delivered an interesting and provocative lecture on New Monasticism at Bristol Universtiy, at the beginning of the month.
If you’re interested in the subject at all, visit the Bristol Universtiy multifaith chaplaincy site where you can listen to or download the lecture.
Tobias is a great speaker, and has a bit of a go at those of us who over and misuse the word ‘community’ – as he puts it: “Community is like being stuck in a lift with people, for a very long time…”
To add to the controversy he also has a bit of a go at some of the ‘new monastic’ stuff that’s out there, using a quote from my book (eeek), where the Northumbria Community’s Roy Searle warns against the danger of a doing spirituality – ‘a monk is not defined by his task’ warns Searle, ‘but by his desire to seek God.’
I do particularly enjoy his description of monasticism as: “ancient, established, radical and rhythmic…”
And there’s loads more good stuff in there, he even mentions me once or twice! (Blush.)
One of the people whose name was mentioned a few times during the research for my book on New Monasticism in the Uk, was Tobias Jones whose book Utopian Dreams told of his journey around a number of communes, including Pilsdon in the south of England, which is one of the communities I look at too.
Tobias, it must be said, is a far better writer than me, and his book is very much worth reading if you are interested in community living of any sort.
Interesting to note by the way that he links Pilsdon directly to Little Gidding, which is a key place in the story of New Monasticism in the UK, I hope to meet up with James Stacey from the Jesus Army there in the new year.
Anyway, Tobias is now in the process of setting up his own woodland community, which sounds brilliant, you can read about it here. He is taking a very sensitive and pragmatic approach to it, which is to heartily reccomended. I wish him every success and blessing. Go for it!!