Thursday, February 01, 2007

More Monastic Musings...

Ann at The Sacred Everyday is musing about monasteries....

From Part One, monasteries as models for our homes:

Monasteries were about living in close physical proximity with others. So we were. Monasteries were about living in submission to authority. So we do, children to parents, parents to God. Monasteries were about children, rooms and halls bursting with children, receiving the only education offered in Western Europe during 600 to 1000 A.D. So we are a family and home a committed to the godly education and discipleship of our children. Monasteries were about stillness, sacrifice and service. About ora et labora, all as unto God. Monastic life was much like our Mennonite neighbors, working sun up to sun down in simple lives set apart in self-discipline and prayer. Could this family intentionally be about these same things of God?

From Part Two, Old Ways:

I am weary of new ways, new models that date older models, requiring a trade-in.

I want old ways. Simple ways. Christ ways. Frankly, I don’t know what to make of monasteries or Mennonites. I know I want to create a place of prayer right here. I know I want to live like the early church. I know I want to create a community of faith, a community of love, a Christian community, within the walls of this home, in the heart of this family.

I want this family to build a community of faith that I read of in Scripture, the kind that “committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 MSG).

In the Gathering Room (where such musings are invited), I posted this response to Ann's posts:

My husband and I have been asking ourselves many of the same questions as Ann...for many years now. Perhaps because my husband is a priest, we've been thinking about this not just for our family, but for the church.

We have a pattern of meeting on Sundays, and irregularly through the week, but is that enough for those who are struggling? My husband counsels with many young men who are in that category. I know many young moms who are overwhelmed, and single women who are lonely. In the suburbs of Chicago, many of us live 30 minutes away from church, and that can mean even greater distances between us during the week.

Our hearts long for a literal "monastery" or "abbey" where we could live geographically close to one another and to a place of regular meeting for worship. And we have felt God's call to actually start one. We hope to share not only daily worship, but some common meals, and ministry together. We do not want this to become insular and isolated, and interestingly, it looks as if God is placing us in an urban setting, rather than in a more rural setting as we once pictured it. We know that there are missional aspects of what He's calling us to do that we'll discover once we open our doors.

I think too, that many singles, students and retreat-goers will join us for short-term periods, and our prayer is that they will learn much from the experience that they will take on with them into other settings. I do believe that there is a "return to the old ways" that is needed in the American church, and we hope to offer conferences and classes teaching "the Great Tradition"--which refers to the teachings of "the undivided church," from the earliest writings of the church Fathers before it broke into Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant: "that which was believed at all times, in all places, by all men." Surely those are the essentials of the faith!

God calls us all to the same things, but in different ways, doesn't He? Ann's vision for her family...our vision for our family, plus others (and how exciting to know that others are prayerfully considering the call to join us)...prompted by many of the same desires...but how uniquely will these callings be fleshed out!


Sissy B. said...

I like how you said "how uniquely will these callings be fleshed out". I am reading The Genesee Diary:Report from a Trappist Monastery by Henri J.M. Nouwen...and I am really captured by it..this was one of my favorite musings :"The spiritual life does not consist of any special thoughts, ideas, or fellings but is contained in the most simple ordinary experiences of everyday living."... simply ;) I never heard of the book '..Minivan Monastery"...but i so understand the concept ;)

Patty in WA or Rover said...

Take a look at the book "The Spirit of Early Christian Thought" to understand what all Christians once believed. It's by Robert Louis Wilken, and is accessible to the lay theologian.

Take a look at the blog for some wonderfully refreshing words about what you are talking about. He is Eastern Orthodox, for the record.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Yes, we love that book! We've given it as a gift, in fact. I haven't got very far, I confess, because my husband keeps borrowing it back--I need to get it back from him again.

I'll take a look at the blog you mentioned. We really respect Orthodox theology.

Thanks so much for your suggestions!


Patty in WA or Rover said...

Leave it to you to have read it.

The pastor of the Presbyterian church in Cannon Beach has also written a book based on applying the Rule of St. Benedict to the home. It's called "The Cloistered Home", by David Robinson. Some very interesting ideas in there.

God bless you.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Oooh, that one sounds great! We have lots of versions and commentaries on St. B's Rule, but if we have that one, I haven't seen it yet. (Better ask my husband before I order it!)

It sounds like you're interested in many of the same things as we are. I'd love to hear your story or background, if you want to share it. (Email is fine if you'd rather not do so here.)

THANKS again for the recommendations!


Patty in WA or Rover said...

I hope you find the book interesting. We were just in the Cannon Beach church this morning, and Pastor Robinson included my kid (a visitor) in the activity they were doing today. It was really nice of him, and my kid had a great time.

I'm not ignoring you. I'll probably send you an email at some point about what I'm thinking about on the path here....I'm a little leery in all of this discussion because in past discussions, I have come to the conclusion that I am a bit like a bull in a china shop, and I find that I am in a china shop more often than I think I am. So I have to figure out how to be a little less of a bull or whether I am still in the china shop...right?

And probably more to the point, this is a really busy week. We are having as guests "A Circle of Quiet" and family and going to LA to see the Getty exhibit of the icons from Sinai, then to LegoLand in it will be a few days of busyness!

Take care, though, and have a wonderful week.