At The CMS Members Day I met up with Jim Barker... Jim is both a member of hOME, a new-monastic community in Oxford ('led' by Matt Rees) and one of the volunteers working alongside Gill Poole on the new Mission House for CMS... the Misson House is part of a shift for CMS, from being a Mission Agency to being a Mission movement... part of this shift is the move to partnering in new-missional communities like ours and putting people in place to resource these communities e.g. Andrew Jones and Richard White - who work together with the vision to see thousands of new small missional communities spring up across the UK, and Johnny Baker (all part of the Mission Leadership Team with me).... The characters who seem to be 'driving' this shift are Chris Neal and Paul Thaxter... both of whom have the most incredible energy for Mission and for change (though not for change sake!)... The House is not 'A Church' in the sense of a gathering, but a place for people to come and live in order to impact the wider community... Jim described the difference in terms of Church as a Citadel (a place where people go to for safety and security - a defensive place) and a Coracle (a tool for the journey - a place that is designed to lead people out, but also provides people with a safe place to make that journey)
If you want to appease the 'Trick or Treaters' (horrible tradition we've imported from the States... why can't we go back to 'Apple Bobbing' etc... much more fun!) and you want to communicate the good news at the same time... then try one of these holy treats!
From the communion liturgy used at CMS Members day (at which I was speaking) yesterday...
If the time has come to make the break then help me not to cling, even though it feels like death. Give me the inward strength of my redeemer, Jesus Christ, to lay down this bit of life and let go, so that I and others may be free to take up whatever new and fuller life you have prepared for us, now and hereafter. Amen
One of Today's readings is the well known Psalm 137...
Alongside Babylon's rivers we sat on the banks; we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion. Alongside the quaking aspens we stacked our unplayed harps; That's where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: “Sing us a happy Zion song!” Oh, how can we sing GOD's song in a strange land?
Interesting, that yesterday I was Skype-ing with a friend in Australia (Linz Cullen) and we were talking about Mike Frosts new book 'Exiles'... not that I've read it yet (got it on order)... but we were exploring two different senses of the idea that we are in an exile story...
One interpretation of the metaphor, could suggest that the emerging culture is a Godless one... we are in exile in the spiritually dead desert of post-christendom, maybe... but the image that stirs me relates to both the a) the Egyptian Exile and the Exodus (Moses and crew) and the Exile (from Jerusalem to Babylon)... The exile in Egypt saw the establishment of a nation, a culture i.e. structures and patterns, these patterns ensured the stability of the nation, they ensured orthodoxy I suppose and they provided both identity and security. Once they left Egypt they found themselves lost... I guess they could no longer define themselves in opposition... and searched for a new pattern that would sustain them... some focus... they tried all sorts of things; altars, golden idols etc. What worked in the end was the Tablets and their container, the Ark... interesting that it seems that maybe the writing on the tablets, the words of God had less significance to them... They were not ready to let go of the cultural patterns... and fought to sustain them.
The other Exile, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took the leaders away to Babylon... this is the subject of the Psalm... when their structure; religious and cultural... their identity was taken away, they had to rethink what it meant to be the 'children of God' in a strange land, a strange culture... they could no longer sustain their faith with the patterns which had become the norm for them. A cultural faith isn't sustainable when culture changes for whatever reason...
So... what now, I guess it could be said that we are in exile, in a post Christian culture... we can see that as a call to hold onto our structures or to desperately look for a new focus... to restore a cultural faith... or... we can begin to ask the question, how can we sing the same old songs in a strange land? My guess is that rather than look for new structures to refocus the church we need to look for God here and now... it is argued that many of the leaders might not have returned from Babylon (some even suggest that the Wise Men of the Nativity were from Babylon (east of Palestine) and may be the spiritual descendants of those spiritual leaders.) they must then have found God in Babylon, and found new ways within the culture to express their faith, and to welcome people with no background in the structures and patterns... I wonder can we!?
We have been thinking about desert fathers (here) and was wondering if there were any connections with your links to celtic fathers what they teach us about how you balance withdrawal and engagement,
I thought that it warranted sticking up as a post... cause I think there could be some useful discussion here... and the original post was a few days ago, so may be missed...
It is fascinating... with the Celtic monastics you do get a tension between the solitary hermits/the isolated communities and the missionary/wandering monks... there is the well known communities e.g. Skellig who looked to the Desert Fathers... and sought the 'Desert in the Ocean' - the sense of being away from 'civilisation', being in the wilderness where the voice of God is not drowned out by the clamour of life... but of course there are also the famous missionary monks - Aidan, Patrick, Killian, Chad etc. - I guess Brendan sat somewhere in between - He travelled and set up monastries, but it feels like Mission happened almost as a bi-product of being on the journey, the aim of the journey was to get closer to God/reach the prophetic 'Holy' land... Mission happens as the journeying community encounter people and places... we know that as the Monks traveled new communities sprang up at the places of refreshment and rest. There is also the sense of both desert and celtic fathers seeking to live more in tune with the rhythms and struggles of the land, of creation... sometimes this meant a pretty harsh life; living simply, subjecting oneself to struggle and physical meditation, even penance (the famous stories of Monks standing up to their waste in the Sea for hours on end - storms and all!)
I think I agree with James when he reminds us...
The desert fathers / mothers headed out into the desert because the Roman culture had imposed a Christian state that didn’t seem very God centred to them.
... Rowan Wiliiams wrote that the original monks and nuns went into the desert becuase the existing church did not accurately reflect the gospel incarnate... so I guess there are four aspects...
The need to find place/space/structure to listen to the 'still small voice' of God - reflection, meditation, solitude, rhythm and rule etc. - to foster spiritual formation and accountability.
The need to live as part of and in tune with creation - the beauty and the wildness, not seeing humanity as dominant over creation but as a small part of it... and in respect of it!
Seeing Mission as something that happens as God leads us on - an intrinsic part of the journey, Kate Tristram, Deputy Warden of the Northumbria Community, Lindisfarne said "Mission is a by product of being on Pilgrimage" rather than a separate activity of a gathered church.
The need to seek a model of Christian community which more accurately reflects the Gospel incarnate - simplicity, faith, action, commitment, prophetic, healing, sacrificial/sacramental, hospitable, just, inclusive etc. - and to challenge the existing church where it fails to.
The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount.
...and Br Samuel SSF wrote,
The renewal of both the Church and Society will come through the re-emergence of forms of Christian community that are homes of generous hospitality, places of challenging reconciliation and centres of attentiveness to the living God
James in his comment on Richard's blog raises some very interesting thoughts... a call to be more radical, not to desire inclusion in the institution etc. per se... with which I increasingly wrestle and agree with... his most significant challenge is to stop worrying about holding up a collapsing building, but to begin to build a new one... though builders right down through the ages have utilised the stones cut for the original structure to build the replacement/new one... so I guess maybe we are in the co-process of rooting through the rocks to find the ones which fit the holes which we see... and dressing new stones because non of the existing ones will ever fit... so the emerging structure may well be made up of a huge amount of the old building... but it will look completely different because it serves a different people. Ultimately we cannot discern the missio Dei, if we do not actively listen and build community in a way which fosters listening in it's nature, rhythm and structure... we listen to grow closer to God and God's purpose - God's mission - so we are always open to the next step on the journey - to commit to being a sent community and sent people... and we live for the Gospel incarnate in the culture HERE AND NOW.
From "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens.
ST. CEDD—A.D. 664
Feast: October 26 Cedd belonged to a family of brothers, and all six of them were chosen by King Oswald of Northumbria to be trained by St. Aidan to be monks and missionaries. This was in 635, when Aidan came from the monastery of Iona in Scotland to become bishop of King Oswald's kingdom. One of St. Cedd's brothers was St. Chad, who was the first bishop of York and then bishop of Lichfield. In 653, Peada, king of the Middle Angles, asked Aidan's successor at Lindisfarne for a bishop for his diocese, and St. Finan chose four monks from Lindisfarne to evangelize Peada's people. Later, the king of the East Saxons, whose chief city was London, also asked for a bishop, and Finan called Cedd to Lindisfarne and consecrated him bishop of London. Cedd founded three monasteries of his own, the best known being Lastingham, where he died of the plague in 664. St. Bede has a beautiful story of Cedd's founding of Lastingham: Cedd spent forty days in prayer and fasting in a remote spot given to him by King Ethelwald. In 664, Cedd was present at the Synod of Whitby and was a member of the Irish party, those wishing to retain the Irish date for Easter. But when the synod decided in favor of the Roman date, Cedd accepted the decision, not wanting to cause any further disunity in the English churches. After the Synod of Whitby, a plague struck England, and Cedd was among those who died from the plague. At the news of his death, thirty monks came from London to spend their lives where their founder had died. But they, too, caught the plague and were buried near the little chapel that had been erected in Cedd's memory. Cedd was the second bishop of the city of London; the first was Mellitus, who came with St. Augustine and later became archbishop of Canterbury. Mellitus was driven from the see by the king of the East Saxons in 616, and London was without a bishop until Cedd's arrival about 654.
I have real mixed feelings about this... Ruth Gledhill posts the statements of Canon Delaney of St. Pauls...
Canon Peter Delaney, Archdeacon of London and a Canon of St Paul's, hosted a welcome "tea party" for the Scientologists at his home close by the cathedral. Senior clergy from churches in the City of London were also invited to get to know their new neighbours. Canon Delaney told me: "The aim was to show them that we are not hostile to visitors to the City, to show that while we may not agree with them in detail, we were certainly not going to cold shoulder them and were going to say, 'Welcome to the City.' I do not consider them a threat. Why would we consider them a threat? There are two things about them that are important. They do not call themselves a church in the sense that we understand it. And they do not call themselves Christians, but are another faith. Their faith community cannot be a threat to people of faith. One of the things that is impressive about them is their drug treatment programme for young people. I think people have been hostile to them. My concern is that we cannot talk about following Jesus Christ if we are not welcoming to people."
My gut reaction is to agree, but... can we take tolerance that far? You may be aware, if you read this blog regularly, that we have a stall at our local Mind Body Spirit fair, and that I went to the Manchester Fair last year. My reaction at Manchester was not what I expected, I found myself split between loving some and feeling decidedly uncomfortable about other groups... the ones I found I loved were the people who genuinely felt they were helping people, who had an openess to people, who had a positive spirituality to them; the Eastern healers, pagans, Wiccans, aura people, Reiki healers etc. OK some may charge but there was something genuine about them... whilst I may not believe in the things they do, I may have concerns about it, may feel they are misguided, being decieved spiritually or whatever, but I couldn't help warm to them as genuine spiritual seekers and givers (there were no doubt exceptions)... it was the Cults that gave off an 'aura' of darkness; control, secrecy, power, abuse etc. if I felt evil there it was not the witches it came from it was the pseudo-scientific cults... the Aetherians etc.
I think where I'm going with this is that we need to be careful, to be discerning with our tolerance... yes, we need to welcome people, but when the "faith community" is itself abusive; spiritually, financially, mentally, socially etc. then should we welcome it? I'm afraid I think they may well be a threat, not to 'The Church' which seems to be the Canon's concern, or even for those within the Church... but for the hundreds of vulnerable, hurt, needy people of our communities. So ultimately I disagree with the Canons statement that the only concern is that they a) aren't Christian and b) don't claim to be Christian (so they wont confuse Christians)... I think there is a third concern, that they will and are abusive and oppressive in the name of religion... Yes, I know the Christian Church has been guilty of some of these things in the past... but we have freedom of speech and membership (anyone is free to leave without threat of abuse - and many do!) and I believe in most cases we recognise our historic failings and abuses and have/are moving on! So I believe we have a duty to fight for the oppressed (of our own and others making) and not to sacrifice needy people on the altar of tolerance!
(NB, I know I may sound hypocritical here... and may well be so, but I have to be honest, otherwise there is no point posting anything... oh and, there are many links I haven't put on here... do your own googling ;-) )
I am extremely disappointed with Shawn Anthony, after saying I disagreed with his decision to close The Daily Scribe but respected his principles in doing so, i read these following posts on his Blog...
Interestingly enough, not more than five minutes after after I wrote the above and sent a copy to a person involved in the Scribe project, the server on which Scribe is hosted went into 500 Internal Server Error mode (I swear I had nothing to do with it). Eh. So be it God … and thank you for the confirmation!
I wanted to see who my real friends were. I definitely found out the real story. How? Scribe went down with a 500 Internal Error (thanks to my admittedly devious - but oh so clever - setting of the permission of an index.php file to 777, rather than 775).
He says that others who have criticised him should "be pretty ashamed of yourselves, and you should feel terrible for the way your traditions were represented." a more judgemental person than I might say that his attributing to God something he did to try and test/trap his friends is nothing short of blasphemy... I however would just say that his lying and (in his own words) devious actions do not show him or his new (re)found faith in a great light!