don’t stop … you might find yourself!

DSC_0042On Sunday evening some of the gathering got together in a local pub to have a go at writing our first aspirational statement with practices or ‘the how’ we will attempt to live our lives.

It would be wrong to put ‘out there’ the statement and points we came up with at this time as they are draft and for the whole gathering community, rather than just a part of us, to agree, but I think it is ok to say that our first statement, or value, is one of ‘sanctuary’ as outlined here

Interestingly we chatted round the language we used and I think we were able to come up with something that is quite inclusive and welcoming of others. An issue we had was of producing something that demanded some form of commitment from us while avoiding some bar set so high that it became a chore and probably unachievable. This is a very exciting, if challenging, time for us as the gathering as we continue with this process of developing our rhythm of life. 

The more I have thought about this topic of sanctuary, the more I am coming to see that sanctuary could be quite a key element to both a personal and communal faith and lifestyle. Every rhythm needs space, and rest, and reflection, and contemplation …. As many know I have an allotment. The seasonal work of an allotment means that there are varied workloads and, quite importantly, a period of rest while stuff dies or hibernates or retreats to within until it gets warmer. Without the rest in the seasons the crops would not be able to grow while without the rest and variety of activity, the allotment keeper would die!!!

I find the more I look at the 21st century world the less I see of sanctuary. People, generally, seem to want to pack more and more stuff into their lives. I read the words of someone recently (I can’t remember who) that said thy cannot cope with space and silence and need to fill it. Rather than be silent this person would rather count the stars I think they said. 

The question I ask of such a person is, ‘what are you running from?’ To shy away from space and silence seems to indicate to me a reluctance to rest with oneself. I think the person who avoids sanctuary or rest or silence or space is running from themself out of a fear of what they might find if they stop. 

As a rule in a post modern consumerist society … do we run from ourselves out of a fear of what we may find? As created beings, made in the image of God,I wonder if maybe if we spend time with ourselves we might be amazingly surprised … as we take space and listen we may well hear something of great value …

…. maybe …


we aspire to …

Yesterday the gathering had an amazing day.

DSC_0243This was a day many of us have been waiting to embark upon for a year or two. I think for myself it concludes the first part a journey that started long before ordination when I clearly heard God’s challenge to join him and find others create something new which was open and inclusive for any wishing to explore more of God but who felt, for one reason or another, that they could not do this within the then existing church structures.

Well .. that journey started with the gathering’s first get together back in April 2009. I’ve linked to my post which I wrote the afternoon after our first gathering, and I smile at the language of journey. That sense of journey was still very strong yesterday … and I think I can safely say a prayer for the community would be ‘Lord, deliver us from ever thinking we have arrived!’

It has taken 4 years from those humble beginnings in a room in our house to get to the stage we were ready for yesterday. In that time people have joined and found it not for them. Others have travelled with us for a while as they re-asses and have then been attracted back to established/inherited church. Others have joined and stayed. I think this is probably the 3rd ‘incarnation’ of the gathering  and to me it seems the most stable we have had. That word, stable, worries me as it suggests a static-ness … but that is definitely not a word to describe us.

Yesterday we met for our aspirations day. This came out of our day together in April and is the start of us developing our Rhythm of Life.

We gathered at West Malling Abbey with Lynne Norman, our excellent facilitator, who kicked the day off by getting us to think about what we valued about the gathering. I was close to tears on a few points as we heard from each other how important the gathering had become … and not just to us. Some of the deepest stuff yesterday came from our children as they articulated how they put great value on what we did together.

DSC_0252After looking at what we valued, we were then asked what we were passionate about, then different activities to talk about our dreams and hopes as well as our fears. All the time this was going on Lynne was writing our words and statements on post it notes and sticking them to the wall. You can see the result in the picture which is high res enough to be able to read the post its if you click on it.

The fnext stage was to look at this mass pof words and draw out common themes and put the words into groups. The words grouped natural into 6 areas and then after some discussion we realised that they really came under four main themes.

The last part of this day was to look at each of the four lists and come up with a word or statement that summed them and our thinking up. This became an aspiring statement … as in this is something that we as individuals and the gathering aspire to do.

So today we have reached a milestone. The next stage for us as a community is over the next four months to take each statement in turn and explore this as a gathering in our monthly worship get together. two weeks after that some of the gathering will get together and will write a paragraph or chapter or something that will help us put our aspirations into practice. At the end of this particular process we hope that we will have been developing a Rhythm of Life out of the identified key areas to answer the question about what God is calling your community to be, and to answer the question, How should we live in but not of the contemporary world?

As a gathering I think we were pretty excited by the end of the day. I felt completely privileged to be part of such an amazing group of people … so thank you.

Host cafe

These are my friends and I’m really privileged to be able to say that and be part of Moot. The only sad thing for me is that I cannot get to be with them as often as I would like. This video shows the new cafe … a dream that has taken 10 years to come to fruition. In that time the community, particularly Ian, have shown great patience and a trust in a God who delivers!

They are a great example to all of us of trusting God, waiting, and not looing for quick fix solutions. Oh … and the coffee is amazing too! So … go listen to the story and check it out next time you are nearby.


what a weekend!

IMG_0694What an amazing weekend!

Gills are Champions! After an exciting season, and years of disappointment, Gills are promoted with 3 matches left to play (the first team to secure promotion from any of the leagues), and crowned Champions with one game still to play. We then celebrated as a group of ‘boys’ (while the girls went to see Dirty Dancing) with a curry and beer which is always great to do.

This orning was the APCM of St Marks. APCM’s are not renowned for their newsworthiness but today was lined with a bit of excitement as we were able to read of the load of tuff that St Mark’s is involved in positively in the community. Some established people recently have been talking of returning to ‘the glory years’ when the place was full. My reflection on those years is, however, that we got together to worship and then returned to our homes, without a lot of community engagement. Now, however, people are seriously engaged in their community …. which causes me to think to a large number of people this Christian community is ‘good news’ …. so I believe we are in the glory years and have no need to go back.

Finally my day ended with a trip up to Moot to as we put together more stuff and thoughts on developing an umbrella organisation for new monastic communities. A great meeting, lots to talk about with passionate people who simply want to follow God and see transformation in their communities … simples! It’s always an honour to be part of this group and catch up, even if it was too briefly, with my Moot friends.

That was the weekend … I’m praying the week will be as good!

a new volume

easter gathering 6 bubbly celebrationSo … the gathering had our ‘away day’ with Ian. We started by asking the question ‘What do we mean by mission in a culture of spirituality?’ Ian them led us through ‘what is new monasticism’ using Moot as a working example. We then started to look at forming a rhythm of life and how did would help us in our mission and our lives as Christians in our settings.

As the day progressed I sensed a real intrigue which turned to excitement and then to a permission giving feeling of real willingness and possibility for what might be, and what the gathering could become.

The gathering made a collective decision to start the journey of looking at whether we are a new monastic community by seeing if we can craft our Rhythm of Life. This will involve us in a 6-8 month process but there was a real sense of wanting to do this.  So we will be planning another day away with a facilitator in the next few months.

I am excited, I am worried about the level of work and commitment this will take, I am intrigued as to where this will take us. Amongst all this fear, excitement and intrigue, however, I am convinced that this is the right thing for us to be doing. I will be interested to see what we as a community value about what we do, and what our dreams are for what our community could become.

Whatever happens, yesterday was the start of a whole new chapter for us ….  actually, maybe even more than a whole new chapter, but more like a whole new volume. Nothing will eb the same afte this. Please … continue to pray for us.

an emerging (monastic?) community

IMG_0612I had a great day in London today at Church House at the invitation of the Advisory Council for Relations between Bishops and Religious Communities. The purpose of the day was to allow dialogue between the council and new monastic and emerging religious communities.

Bishop Graham Cray gave an interesting opening talk in which he spoke of the Holy Spirit seeming to be creating  new kind of monasticism that pre-dates the Fresh Expression movement. He got us thinking by talking of overlap between Fresh Expressions, Prayer Movements and New Monasticism. He then challenged me, and I guess all of us, by asking how we sustain mission, develop disciples and catechesis.

The rest of the day was taken up with hearing from a mixture of new communities and traditional communities and it was exciting to see both lern from each other. The day was exciting and interesting and, for me in particular, amazingly encouraging to spend time with others who think the same as me and are experiencing the same kinds of frustration, feelings of isolation and challenge over developing disciples that can be sustained in a counter cultural community.

The day was then concluded with a lot of laughter and a few beers with a good friend, at a great pub – thank you, that was cool!

Oh … and you might wonder why I was at this day at all. Currently the gathering is considering who we are, as in what kind of community are we developing and growing. Some think we have the marks of a new monastic community, and on Saturday we are spending a day with Ian Mobsby as we explore and discern this a little more. So – if you are one of those praying kinds please remember the gathering this Saturday, as I think it will be  key time for us as a community.

i remember …

perichoresisTwice this week I have had the fortune to visit Moot and meet up with Ian, as my mentor, and catch up with other Moot friends.

Last week 4 of us got together as Ordained Pioneer Ministers to talk about stuff … spiritual reflection, funding, publicising what we are doing … and other pioneer support stuff. This group has only met once and I already love being part of it. It is so refreshing to be part of a group that is innovative and creative. I cannot put into words the relief I feel knowing that in this group I will not have to explain, again, what a pioneer is, or correct a misunderstanding of what a pioneer is (no … we are not simply good parish priests that have a bit of extra time to play and create!)

It frustrates me that I have been ordained over 4 years as an OPM and still people don’t get it …… but I guess I am partly to blame in that I am not communicating it clearly enough!

This afternoon I was at Moot again as part of a group looking at  an Acknowledged Religious Community Discernment Group. This will be a group that is a resource and support to those going down the new monastic group. I think this group will be key and beneficial to the gathering should they choose to go this way. This kind of stuff excites me and I am really pleased to be part of something like this in its beginnings.

It was great to be able to join Moot for worship for a little bit before I had to rush off for the train (Weekend engineering works always happen on a  Sunday!!!) and I finished Moot Compline on the High Speed to Strood which raised an eyebrow or two!

These last few days with two visits to Moot have really reminded me what I am about, and what I feel is at the centre of me. This thing about intentional community, echoing the trinitarian community that is God, really grabs my gut, inspires me and encourages me to keep going. The perichoresis is what it’s all about for me!  (i’m not linking to anything … look it up!) It’s a worry how quickly I forget!

individuals or persons

On Wednesday i joined others at the Moot base for another conversation about monasticism. I was glad to be invited to this, partly because it gave opportunity to meet up with people, other practitioners, I have not seen in a while and to hear from various traditional monastics which was the main aim for this particular gathering.

I like the format of these conversations, which are held within a eucharist service that rolls out slowly across the day. Three speakers delivered for 10 mins each before we chatted about what was said around tables. We would then break for coffee before encountering the next part of the Eucharistic liturgy.

For me this is quite key and gives a certain grounding and rootedness to the day, reminding me that whoever we are this is all about Christ.

I was challenged a number of times during the conversation. As I think I am involved with a group of people that seem to be going down a new monastic route, I heard a lot of gems from traditional monastics on this day which have caused me to pause and think. Two conversations grabbed me in particular:

Brother Colin spoke about enclosure and living in enclosure. He went on to say that ‘enclosure is a place where we are trained to be attentive to God so that our hearts become attentive to God when we go out.’ he then blew my mind with ‘I then become an enclosure for God’. That is a comment worth thinking through. As someone interested in new monasticism with a growing dispersed community, I started to wonder how we can give time to the minet of enclosure where we are. If Brother Colin is correct in his definition, then as a community we need to eb able to develop this practice.

Later in the day Sister margaret Theresa spoke about Solitude and Communion. Again I was struck by the amazing wisdom which only comes from those that are dedicatedly following this lifestyle. She quoted the following after saying that humans can be individuals or persons:

individuals are those who live and survive by asserting themselves against others, creatures who must either devour or be devoured. THose who can only become themselves by separating themselves from others; they can only become themselves at the cost of others.

persons: those who live and survive not by asserting themselves against others, but by finding themselves in and through others. In freely giving themselves to others, they are not lost but renewed. They can only become themselves in relationship to others; and far from the process of ‘becoming themselves’ being at the expense of others, it is most profoundly with and for others’.

This holds, of course, with our doctrine of the Trinity where we see the three persons of the one God living as community, freely giving themselves to each other as well as to us.

In a world that seems to worship the free choice of the individual, I guess we need to be asking how do we live as persons? What would this really look like in my community … and what would ‘being renewed’ really be like?

I left Wednesday inspired, challenged and deeply thoughtful.

And finally …. if you live near me in the wonderful county fo Kent and you like the sound of this new monasticism thing … get in touch … lets keep the conversation going … lets see God working through as we freely give ourselves.



Returning to first principles

I am really looking forward to being at the launch of Ian Mobsby’s new book on Thursday evening at the London Centre of Spirituality  – it looks like it will be a great couple of hours so why not come along too?

I am in the incredibly lucky situation to have Ian as a mentor. Since being placed with Ian many years ago at Moot while training on SEITE I have been meeting with Ian regularly to chat about what I do. Ian has been a great support and a great challenger … as every good mentor should be.

What I have really appreciated about our relationship, apart from Ian’s friendship and honesty, has been the way Ian has explored this whole role of the Trinity in mission. Sometimes he has blown my mind, or confused me, or challenged me. It has all been good stuff as part of the write up says here:

‘In this presentation, Ian Mobsby explores a central theme of his new book ‘God Unknown: The Trinity in contemporary Spirituality and Mission’.  The Holy Trinity is the central reality and concept that makes Christianity a distinct faith and not a jewish cult. As such God is a missionary God that challenges the Church and all Christians to participate in this mission and ministry of reconciliation, as God seeks to restore all things into renewed relationship with the divine.  In our increasingly post-secular context where people are more interested in spirituality than religion, it is the reality of the Trinity that gives us hope and opens up the spiritual landscape of the faith to those who are un-or-dechurched’. 

So … as I said above … come along …. you won’t regret it!

a monastic conversation

I simply had an amazing day today; and I look back on the day and I am not sure whether I am excited or terrified … and maybe it is a mixture of the two.

I was invited to a conversation that was being held with leaders of traditional Anglican monastic communities and leaders of small missional communities in the CofE that draw on a New Monastic basis. It was in the latter category that I was invited … in case you thought something had happened that you were unaware of.

I am not sure whether the gathering would call itself a new monastic community or whether we think of ourselves in that way. Certainly as a community we want to be able to live a life of integrity where our actions support our words. We are a missional community that wants to engage with the needs in the community around us. We are quite diverse and yet united by a desire to travel the journey together and we hope we will be able to achieve this, in part, as we develop our rhythm of life. Taking all that together it does sound like we may have some monastic tendencies …. but what we develop into may be something different. Hey … I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring, let alone what we will be next year!

I met up with some good friends today and was able to catch up, and I made a number of new friends which I always enjoy to do.

The format of the day was great. People told their story and in tables we chatted about the story as we sought to learn from each other and hear what is happening. My table had a good mix of people from new monastic and traditional monastic communities – so the conversation was always good.There were two particularly exciting things for me that I noticed throughout the day:

God seems to be saying similar things to diverse groups of people. On my table I had the delight of meeting Sister Mary David from the Benedictine Community of West Malling. She noted that each community, traditional and ‘new’, was very different but that all were trying to live out a faith authentically.

I was particularly encouraged by each person sharing how small their community was. I guess from the web it is easy to think that things are a lot larger than they really are and this, in turn, can cause you to feel pretty inadequate. As someone involved in a small community I was quite encouraged to hear others being and doing in small groups as well. I was also challenged by others who are living in some pretty scary places and even being shot at for their faith! I am not sure I have the courage for that!

I was struck by a few ‘gems’ of wisdom during the day:

On our table, I guess, I was keen to learn from those who have been in monastic orders for a while. We had 4 nuns on our table and when asked about sustainability we were given two bits of advice – the need to be flexible and adaptable to what is happening around you in the world and the community and change accordingly. Holding onto things and practices too preciously was not going to be honouring to God. The other ‘secret’ of sustainability was the need to take risks – a number of the traditional communities have needed to change location or how they work … and some of those changes have been very risky!

Another ‘gem’ regarding a rule of life. One sister, Joyce, spoke of the rule of life as ‘not a fence but a well to draw from and be refreshed by’ while Sister Mary David spoke of it as a ‘trellis that helps us to grow and supports us’. I find both of those images both powerful and helpful to myself as I wrestle with ‘stuff’.

I’ve already said the day was amazing. There is a lot we can learn from each other and I am really excited that these conversations will continue in some way. I am also pretty scared …. at what the outcome may entail.

Thanks everyone, particularly Ian and Abbot Stuart, for making this such an amazing day.