Last Friday was a pretty amazing day. I simply have not had a chance to write about this yet. I also like things to settle and see what stays with me after such a packed day. The stuff that is lingering will appear below.
Along with a few others, Liz and myself represented the gathering, who were invited to the Archbishops Day Conference on Religious Life and Renewal at Lambeth Palace. It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and connect with some new people from both traditional and new monastic communities.
I was particularly encouraged as Archbishop Justin asked in his opening speech …. ‘what needs doing? What institutional changes are needed? How does the church, how do the churches (we are not all Anglicans here) obstruct you, hinder you when we should celebrate and support? What re-imagination do we need?’
He started by saying religious communities throughout history have been a major influence on renewing and energising the church. He also said we need a wild and spirit led burst of imagination …. hearing those words, from the Archbishop, in an 800 year old building in the seat of ‘the establishment’ were both pretty radical to hear … as well as incredibly life and permission giving. Once again, it seems, we have an Archbishop that wishes to bless ideas and imagination and wants to see creativity …. I resonated with that ‘imagination’ word particularly as I believe God called my attention to imagination prayer the week before at the Contemplative Prayer day.
In the question and answer time with the Archbishop two things have stuck with me. When asked about permanence of religious communities and church, he said that he preferred to talk of stability. Permanence is affected by the external stuff and so is out of our control; but stability, said Archbishop Justin, is internal and we can live with that in our heart. So, rather than looking at being permanent, we should be searching for that feeling of stability.
The Archbishop also talked about how communities could celebrate the new and spontaneous as it appears. He urged each community to work out how they can do this as they perform their dance of the prophetic and the creative.
We broke into groups after both key note speeches in the morning and afternoon. I felt I heard one loud message very clearly which I will be taking back to the gathering …. that many communities experience shows that we can only grow as we rediscover our radical mission purpose. Part of this will involved the transformation of places of pain into places of hope.
This was backed up int he afternoon when Fr Etienne from the Chemin Neuf Community challenged us to think about the ‘charism’ that the gathering offered and how that might be released for the renewal of the church and the community. That’s a really interesting and deep question that I have come away with …. and something that we, as the gathering, will need to ponder … but hopefully not for too long … so we can get on and make a difference.
This was a great day …. and I give thanks for all those involved in planning. There are some comments from friends below …