Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ways into small missional community [4] finding the spirit of the community

Here's the 4th of the postings I'm doing on creating and sustaining community for the small missional communities online network.
In any community there will be always be a lot of focus on what we do. That’s fine - the actions of the community, its surface life - are important. But behind the activity is something less obvious, more subtle, and perhaps even more important. This is what I think of as the spirit of the community.

Almost every family, project, team, society or business has a spirit or value system, often unrecognised, and sometimes less than positive. Gracious or greedy, caring or care-less, transparent or manipulative [or a mix of those] - the spirit of a community is how it feels to encounter it - and the spirit of thing has the power to create something beautiful - or to trash it.

When combined with ‘the big idea’ [see the previous 'ways into... no 3'] a good spirit can produce something truly creative - a community that in small ways begins to reshape us and the world around us for good. So it can be really helpful in beginning a new community to identify what we hope the spirit will be, describe it, and begin to try to live it.

One way of getting a handle on this idea of spirit is to ask this question: how will we be when we are doing the things we hope to do? This is a question about the sort of people we want to be as we journey. It’s about how we do anything - and as one of my mentors Fr Richard Rohr says - ‘how we do anything is how we do everything!’ So, for example, how do we do the washing up? Happily, together, well? Or reluctantly, left for others, badly?

So what might be the spirit of the community-project that you are part of, or that you hope will come into being? Can you describe the spirit somehow - and if so what words or pictures convey this?

[Look out for the next posting in this series: [5] being shaped by your setting]
Peace to you Ian

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

compassion without limits

There's lots of controversy at the moment around the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The bombing was a terrible criminal act. But my instinct is that the Scottish Government has done a good thing in granting compassionate release, however unpopular or difficult the decision, however inappropriately received.

I am rooted in the Jesus story - and it seems to me that the Teacher-Healer's life, death and resurrection was an story of compassion without limit. The extent of his compassion shocked many people - "does he not realise what kind of woman she is" - surprised even his own disciples, and was not dependent on the spirit in which it was received.

It's so important that we don't become like the bad stuff we want to resist. We need to live the grace that we talk about. Here's a link to the statement by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The pic is a favourite icon of mine - 'Christ and the friend' - very early [5th C?] God help me to become and remain compassionate.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michael Volland

Michael Volland is going from feig to Cranmer Hall Durham - here's a link to his new blog - all the best Michael

Friday, August 21, 2009

kind of blue @Greenbelt

Looking forward to Greenbelt . Here's the main things I'm doing at the festival:

Friday 8pm-9pm 'reflections in jazz' - exploring links between improvisational jazz, contemplative prayer and inspired action, working with the classic Miles Davis album ‘Kind of Blue.’ [venue: Soul Space]

Sunday 3pm-4pm part of a conversation called 'Rhythm and Calendar, Feast Days and Fasting' with Maggi Dawn and Nadia Bolz-Weber [venue New Forms Conversations in the Winged Ox]

Sunday 5pm-6pm 'start a community, change the world?' - a mix of stories, insights and conversation exploring how to start communities and how they can change us reshape the world [venue CMS tent]

Sunday 11pm-midnight 'kind of blue' - more on jazz, contemplative prayer and action to change the world with the entire and very brilliant Miles Davis album 'Kind of Blue' as late night soundtrack [venue Soul Space]

All weekend: Greenbelt have asked me to do morning bell - the morning call to prayer via email/txt/twitter - for the festival - if you don't yet receive morning bell and would like to get the festival morning bell by email/txt let me know by email or txt, or to receive via twitter go to

See you at Greenbelt!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Very good time at the weekend at Glastonbury. Lots of really interesting conversations with spiritual travelers taking different paths - really good to hear their stories and to offer them my experience of and love for the Jesus tradition. This was part of an event organised by Pauline Warner, a friend in the Christian Travellers in the New Spiritual Culture network who runs a project called Soul Clinics. On Saturday I did a series of reflections and exercises from the monastic stream each hour through the day in the beautiful [if rather cluttered - aren't they all] St Margaret's chapel. We finished with a silent Eucharist - a practise of the Carthusians. Yesterday we did a Eucharist on the Tor. We are hoping to go back to Glastonbury around Easter and the Spring Equinox in March 2010. Pics of are of the chapel and from the top of the Tor.

Friday, August 14, 2009

ways into small missional community [3] beginning to live a simple pattern

here's the next in the series of postings I am doing on starting and sustaining community for the Small Missional Communities project:
So perhaps there’s a few of you setting out, with an idea of what you hope might come into being. How do you actually get started?

A really good way to begin is to start living a simple pattern of life. This would be the core happenings that you can imagine coming into being for the community-project. The stuff you do every week or so.

Keep the pattern simple. Don’t wait until you have it all worked out, begin with what you sense is being given to you. In time the pattern will evolve. Don’t try to do too much. Give attention to each other, don’t get too wrapped up in the idea of the thing and miss out on the people. Even if there’s only 2 or 3 of you, live it as if there are all the people that you hope in time will be with you. Try to sense what the pivot point - the central element - of the community’s life will be in the week. Make it a priority - and love it!

So if you are already part of something like a small missional community, what’s your community pattern of life? And what was your experience of living it from the beginning? If you are thinking about starting a community-project, what do you sense might be the simple pattern, the vital elements in the week?

[Look out for the next posting in this series: finding the spirit of the community]

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Glastonbury Soul Cafe

Looking forward to being involved in the Soul Cafe at St Mary's Catholic church hall in Glastonbury on 15 August 11am-5pm with Pauline Warner who has pioneered this event, and others.

The pic is of a simple stone circle on the Isle of Mull that Gail and I visit. At the Marymass Soul cafe we are hoping to connect the Jesus tradition with others who, like us, find themselves drawn to places like this.

I'll be doing stuff in St Margaret's chapel on new monasticism, looking to give people an opportunity to sample rhythms, prayers and practises inspired by the monastics. There's going to be a mix of practises and therapies offered by people who are all trying to follow the Christ. On the Sunday morning we are going to have a eucharist on the Tor. The event is free. Here's the current plan for the stuff that I'm doing:
Each session will introduce a new element to help us discover a simple monastic rhythm for life and prayer where we are, and each will last for between 15 minutes and half an hour, followed by space for stillness, practise and conversation.

10.40 stilling prayer to begin the day
11.30 contemplative body prayer
12.30 the simplicity of chant
1.30 stories from the monastic tradition
2.30 engaging with the earth and its creatures
3.30 praying with the Psalms
4.30 discovering a simple monastic rhythm where you are
5.15 stilling prayer for the start of a new evening