Thursday, October 19, 2006

Recent Travels: Monastic church plants?

I've just returned from Boston where I was on spiritual retreat at the Benedictine Glastonbury Abbey delving into the parables of Jesus in a focus called "Living in the Kingdom" led by Rev. Carl Scovel. There were 23 of us there. It was "deep church" and one of the subtexts running through the groups and the conversations in between times was all about the need for renewal and refreshing of the Spirit and creation of groups such as this that can multiply and help connect people in ways to go deeper with God. I will be posting more as the days come about the ways the contemporary monastery is a model for church planting. In the meantime I will reproduce some of my recent letter to folks connected to The Living Room Church. For more go to

"It was great to get away to the Benedictine Monastery, Glastonbury Abbey, in Hingham, Mass. for a spiritual retreat, and to represent The Living Room Church at the annual convocation of the Council of Christian Churches within the Unitarian Universalist Association that was held at Kings Chapel in Boston (see And it was even better to come back to Turley, full of new spirit and ideas and experiences to share. It was great to hear about the fun time here while I was gone, too, as people shared their visions of what church can mean in this place, and time, and with us its people and particularly in our possible new and enlarged space we would be giving away to the community....

"I subscribe to a newsletter by the famed national researcher on religious issues George Barna. We disagree about many things having to do with what it means to follow Jesus, which is one of the reasons I pay attention to him, and the other is that his work reflects pretty accurately I believe the life issues we face. His most recent article is about the number one complaint people have about their lives these days, the number one desire----To Get A Good Night's Sleep. Go to

"And I know it is a spiritual issue. It is a concern of the church. Haven't we all been there? Right now? The reasons why this is a growing desire and problem in our lives are legion; you can fill in the blanks with all the explanations the same as I can. One of my favorite ways of looking at this is, in fact, to turn my title around and say that it is precisely because we aren't finding our work useful and helpful to us and others and with more comfort than challenge that we can't get a good night's rest. We try to fill the holes in our lives with work or activity or even social concerns and sleep is often seen as another hole in our life to fill, avoid, self-medicate. But tackling the problem with all kinds of explanations will only help a little. I think a major "awakening", so to speak, is needed.

"Out this window I face while I write, I see a world in need of more monastic living, which means intentional spiritual living and community-building that is counter-cultural to both the way the "church" says we are to live and the way the "world" says we are to live. Twice this year I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with monasteries, one run by Anglican Sisters and the latest by Benedictine Brothers. They carry on an ancient tradition. While I am no fan of hierarchy (and so I differ with the ways the monasteries are organized theologically), there is something compelling, commanding, even confronting about the mission they represent.

"As The Living Room Church grows and finds itself and loses itself and multiplies itself, there are lessons from these communities that can guide us, and I believe guide us as individuals as well as when we are a community.

"Places of Hospitality. Earth-centered. Simplicity. Service-oriented. Prayerful. Full of song and silence. Focusing both on the very local and broadly global. Places for people to come, abide, immerse in the rules and guides of ancient wisdom, and to go, be sent, as agents of change in their lives, in their families, among their friends, at work, as citizens.

"Expect, from me in the weeks and months ahead, to bring in a little more Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and many others who have walked "in the desert and worked in the dirt" wherever they have found themselves.

'In the meantime, I live you with a "rule" we discussed at my recent retreat, to use to shape your own life so that you may become the change you seek to see in the world.

'---Daily, pray and/or have a spiritual practice you engage in.
---Weekly, rest in Sabbath for worship and praise and remembrance of what sustains you and calls for your life's commitment.
---Monthly, have a "deep meeting" with others or a spiritual director, for accountability of your walk in life.
---Annually, go on retreat to be re-oriented.
---During your lifetime, take a pilgrimage to a special sacred place or holy land.