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14/07/2006

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Great quote!

These are some of the same issues we have been wrestling with recently - Matt Rees from HOME talked a little bit about this issue to us on tuesday.

For me the role of an abbot/abbess also relates to a wider question about accountability, both of the community itself to its own vision, and the community to an external.

Working out the whole monastic thing in the C of E is quite difficult - especially if you want to go with the whole abbot/abbess thing as in legel terms abbots are on a par with Bishops!

We are having a blah... day on this in November (25th), exploring how the monastic can influence, and give language to, what many in the emerging church are up to. see www.blahonline.net for more details...

Hi Mark, thanks for your comments over at my site, I think youv'e opened up the conversation. I know being involved in church leadership for almost longer than I remember...current modern leadership structures aren't working. Whether it be parish councils, deaneries, deacons,elders and boards...they all seem to be focused on the " Business " of church rather than " Vision and the Spiritual well being of the Community." I believe we can learn alot from looking at the leadership role of the Abbot(ess). I know from the commments and e-mails I recieved on the post by folks I know as Oblates living in monastic communities...their concern and caution is this..

"If you don't have a monastic community, then you don't have an Abbot, and if you call what you have an Abbot because you adopted a style of doing things that semi-monastic in some ways, then you distort the meaning of the term."

I can understand there concern, maybe it is semantics...and maybe we need to discover an other word, rather than distorting what a real monastic community. I know many of my monastic friends won't like what I'm saying...but, I have no problem gleaning wisdom from the leadership of the Abbot(ess) and the best elements of the monastic community and adapting them into where we find ourselves today.Maybe this will be a stepping stone into even a deeper level of spiritual/missional community. I think that is the beauty of the EC, that we are willing to look at all traditions fo the best. Thanks for stretching the conversation further Mark. Pax...Ron+

No problem Ron, for 'completion' here is the comment I left on your blog...

I don't disagree with that at all. The only thing I would say is that there are and have been many types of monastic communities... we have looked at several in particular Roman (Cistertian) and Celtic... but we could go right back to the Desert Fathers... and of course comes from the greek abbas meaning father. It seems to me that often we only see 'monastic' in the light of Roman models - closed communities with the three fold rule, Celtic, Greek and Coptic monastries were all very different in their own way. Some Celtic monastries were 'co-ed' and indeed Monks and 'Nuns' often married. Monastic communities reflected the theology (and ecclesiology) of their age... many (including us) are exploring new-monasticism (not neo-M) meaning trying to work out what a Missional, committed community might look like... I do not agree that ALL want a light version... quite the opposite, they (we) want a sense of Missional, spiritual community that is deeper, more committed than 'church'... and most are 'really' exploring rhythmn and rule.

Well said Mark. Pax...Ron+

It's very difficult to read Benedict's Rule and not come away with a sense of hierarchical leadership. So if you're looking for models of non-hierarchical leadership I'm not sure that's the place to go. And to be honest, in my reading and studying of Celtic Christianity I'm not sure things were that different there either. The Celts are now seen to be very right on and groovy (and don't get me wrong - I'm a fan) but if any of us were to turn up at one of their monasteries I'm sure we would have some major issues with much of their stuff (just try reading the Irish Penitentials!).
That said, I think your instincts to search in this monastic direction for clues for how we do things now are worth following as long as we don't read into history what we are hoping to find. Monastic communities have been, for the most part, firmly hierarchical (e.g. Benedict has an Abbot at the top, then what he calls 'Deans' beneath, and then the rank and file). Good luck!

Agreed, Matt... I guess what I meant by non-heirarchical is that there is a 'family'/community type heirarchy rather than a corporate/business/feudal style... yes there are leaders but the nature of the core relationships are different... ie. there is not a cascade/pyramid/chain of command in quite the same way, where one is in relationship primarily with the immediate persons above and below, and personal resposibility is based on obediance of immediate authority rather than to a community vision... but that all are in relationship... Again, I think we would look more to celtic/desert pictures rather than Roman ones... since the Roman church was always based on civil/political leadership (right back to Constantine) we would rather look to the Desert Fathers or to Celtic community monastries (Nendrum, Lindisfarne etc.) where the authority was more in tune with a parental (patriarchal in most cases although we cannot forget women like Hilda and Brida) understanding and where mutual accountability was significant (Anam Chara)

I completely agree we need to be extrememly careful of reading back into history... similarly we can't simply appropriate models... they need to be applied contextually. Also in exploring rule and rhythm we need to avoid the trap of becoming too exclusive and closed as community and of becoming too focused on personal spiritual fulfilment as opposed to being a community of service.

It also worth saying that all of these historic institutions/communiuties were just as human as us ... and therefore just as subject to human weakness/corruption (even the New Testament Church) and therefore just as flawed... there is no prefect model!

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