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From one community to another

While on a week-end away in a monastery, I came to seek the deep wisdom of Father Marc, a Cistercian monk I had befriendedon a previous retreat. Our short but very intense discussions were enlightening (here some bits and pieces):

We all belong to some community, whether this is family, a business or a spiritual home. These define us as much as we should in fact be defining them. We do not usually consciously choose them, we often just find ourselves being part of one. Even if we chose a community rationally and therefore consciously, it would be almost impossible to fully understand why. This is because it is a journey only God knows but does not yet fully reveal.

With this in mind, a question still worth asking is why do we want to be part of a particular community, what is it that it offers and we do not find anywhere else. This should in fact be part of a deeper reflexion on one’s past and one’s lessons learnt (whether we have reached the right conclusions on previous experiences or not). The question is vital not only to the one looking to join a community, but also for the community itself. One of the best ways for a community to fail is to have its members each being there for a different reason, or even worse, a reason that has only to do with their own selves rather than in relation to other members in the community. Monks and nuns are part of a monastic community because they are to serve Christ together (in whatever creative way that may be) and this is what holds them together – nothing else.

Father Marc and I also discussed the ‘fluidity’ of moot: people joining, people leaving, but also and in particular because there are effectively different levels of commitment. Singles might be in a position to commit more to the community than married couple (although I think this is not necessarily true). Also, those abroad can only participate to a certain extent. Add to this the fact that faith and beliefs are not provided through dogma but through discussions, the sharing of experiences, and non-normative narratives. This effectively forces mooters to define themselves, their beliefs and their roles much more so than in a traditional monastic community. He saw that as being very positive: indeed following the temptation to offer some consumption-ready experience instead of leaving it up to community members to discover why they have ended up with a particular community would mean the beginning of the end.

Because of this particular constellation however, the danger of theological drifts is also greater. Being part of an established Church provides a safety net. Being under the supervision of a Bishop is also a guarantee that a community will not turn into a cult. There is obviously a need for individuals to keep their own (critical) thinking, and perhaps also to have a spiritual father or mother from another monastic community outside moot. Through that will they not only enrich the community, but also preserve their own integrity and that of others.

[No particular conclusion here, but I guess this is already some food for further meditation…]

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POSTED 12.07.10 BY: Moot Archive | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “From one community to another”

  1. On July 12th, 2010 at 11:11 pm ianmobsby said:

    Hi Nico

    Your critique, for me, reaffirms the need for dispersed communities such as moot (and in fact most monastic and friar communities) which need a strong centralising construct to enable the community to be fluid, creating a platform for life, praxis and belief. This is why the spiritual practices, virtues and postures are important, to help maintain some depth when we are unable to be together because of our dispersed nature.

    Aaron put this well the other day – the ROL, virtues, spiritual practices and postures act like a plug in a sink with water in it – God is the force of gravity that not only causes a drawing relationship with the source, but actually helps the water to be an entity. This is the strength of the model of church we are seeking to develop. It celebrates diversity but also names our distinctiveness.

  2. On July 14th, 2010 at 5:47 pm grace said:

    Hi Nick and Ian
    I think what is key through the ideas you outline Nick and where Moot is at at the moment, is that we discuss and engage with one another over everything we are exploring about our identity. e.g. the spiritual practices. I think something that is a massive strength of moot is our democracy, our community identity (i.e. that we are the sum of our parts, and all decide our direction together) and our emphasis on engagement. This I believe reflects beautifully the nature of God, that God in trinity and in engagement with humanity and the world, is all about engagement, conversation, relationship, reaching out.
    I am concerned at the moment we are not discussing enough. I don’t hear enough people giving their opinion straight to the rest of everyone – I am someone who doesn’t fully ‘get’ spiritual practices, depth, etc yet and I’m not sure what I think about how it’s going to work for all of moot to adopt it. I know that I want greater depth, simplicity, and engagement (perhaps just to create more space to engage?) in my life. I find some of those things nurtured in moot, and I like the idea of ‘postures’ like ‘mindfulness’, or ‘wonder’, in everyday life. I think more of those would help me find God more. But I’m not a daily pray-er, although I think I could see that as life-giving; I’m not much of a meditator – when I try sometimes at the Wednesday meditation I actually have virtually always found the thoughts buzzing round my head take the entire 20 minutes to pipe down. What I want is to discuss this stuff with the rest of the community more – and evolve what I think and how I engage. What I’m basically saying is, please would you all come to the exploration wednesday evenings! Because I’d like to find out what I think! /develop what I think. /find out what everyone else thinks. And get a bit of conversation.

  3. On July 15th, 2010 at 9:31 pm Nicolas said:

    Grace – you bring up a very good point: participation. I guess not everyone can or wants to participate at the same level. That whether it is by participating in discussions or through spiritual practices. Nothing new, but I remain sceptical of one-fits-all approaches. I would think that people can and should be able to engage with the virtues but not so much as they ‘want’ to but rather as they ‘can’. It’s my opinion, but I don’t personally see anything bad or wrong if you cannot fully ‘get’ the practices – that says nothing about how you participate (I would hope so at least). In fact, I am fully with you on how you perceive moot: “I know that I want greater depth, simplicity, and engagement (perhaps just to create more space to engage?) in my life. I find some of those things nurtured in moot”

    Father Marc’s concern (he was quite concerned to be honest) was really that an initiative and community such as moot could be destructive if it sought to provide a ready-made solution rather than leave it to people to see how they fit in and how they can contribute. In other words, (and forgive me for the parallel) we should not seek to have an HTB model that can be reproduced (even if clear structures/rules/etc are easier to cope with), and with the virtues/postures turning into the material of something similar to the alpha course. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that though (and hope we won’t be)

    What I’m really trying to get at is: look, seen from the eyes of someone who cannot be physically present but is trying to commit as much as possible, what draws me to moot is the fact that it is ‘organic’ enough to interact with different people in different ways, grow as a person and as a Christian. The virtues and postures, which I find a very food thing, are one aspect of that, not the actual centre of the community. That common understanding, vision, Spirit – if I may say – is.

    Grace – I really wish I could participate on Wednesdays, but it’s kind of logistically difficult…