Article: Between Sojourners and the Simple Way

Highly recommend this long but very impressive article, take the time to read it if you can. He’s basically arguing for a Christian way of living that finds a path between the pragmatism of Sojourners and the idealism of Simple Way…can’t say I agree with absolutely everything he’s said here, particularly with regard to Yoder (who doesn’t speak with one voice any more than the next person), but it outlines the tensions really well and proposes some excellent ways forward.

There will always be tensions between the local practices of the faith community and wider movements for social change, prophetic actions and pragmatic policy-pushing, the primacy of faith language and the necessity of public language. The challenge is to avoid setting up false alternatives for ourselves, to avoid thinking that our particular piece of the puzzle is the only one that matters. Instead of dismissing either prophetic signs and alternative experiments or advocacy and civic participation, we need to find ways to deepen the connections between them, because the possibilities for authentic cultural transformation just might lie at their intersection.

(thanks to AAANZ for the heads up)


The Holy Transfiguration Monastery

PLEASE NOTE:If you’re reading this because you want to contact the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, please don’t ask me for their contact details. Thanks.

A few inspirallers have been talking about intentional community for a while, and as a result we’ve decided to do some serious research into what that might look like. So this Saturday we’re heading down to Geelong to hang out with some of the members of the Holy Transfiguration community. One of only two Baptist monasteries in the world, Breakwater are a rare and beautiful expression of Christian community. We’re wanting to learn about how their journey of integrity towards deeper community, but also to forge links between their group and ours. And I wanted to draw attention to this amazing group right here, where people who would ordinarily not come across a group such as this would have the chance to be as affected by them as I am being.

From here:

The Holy Transfiguration Monastery
Breakwater, Victoria, Australia

by Paul R. Dekar

Holy Transfiguration Monastery is a center of renewal in Breakwater, a working-class neighborhood of Geelong, a city of 200,000 on the west of Port Phillip Bay, in the state of Victoria in Australia. A compelling adaptation of historic Christian monastic traditions to contemporary life, the community is unique in that it continues the life and witness of a 135-year old Baptist congregation while drawing on classic sources of Christian monasticism.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery began in the early 1970s, a period when many Christians around the world re-appraised economic, political, and religious structures. Graeme Littleton and Steven Shipman met during a monastic formation program at The Community of the Glorious Ascension, an Anglican monastery in England. They came to share the vision out of which Holy Transfiguration Community emerged. Littleton and Shipman studied the Rule of Benedict, Orthodox sources, and a number of models of communal life, including Ephrata, an Anabaptist experiment that began in the eighteenth century in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

As the community grew, members developed a Resolve, the practices by which they live as follows:

* Being perfectly assured of your salvation, with your whole life proclaim your gratitude.
* Reject nothing, consecrate everything.
* Be the good of love, for God, for neighbor, for all creation.
* Judge no one, not even yourself.
* Love beauty.
* Maintain inner silence in all things.
* Show hospitality, err only on the side of generosity.
* Speak truth to power, especially power without love.
* Let your only experience of evil be in suffering, not its creation.
* For us there is only the trying, the rest is none of our business.

The community has over thirty members who live in the Cloister or nearby. Members observe traditional monastic commitments to hospitality, obedience, stability, and a balanced life of prayer and work. Celibacy is not an obligation. While several members have chosen a celibate life, married couples also live in the Cloister. Families live in houses, while the celibate sisters and brothers live in single-sex households. Members support themselves through ordinary work. In accord with Acts 2:45 and Acts 4:34, twelve live under the common purse, while members of the Greater Community tithe.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery members observe times of silence, stillness, and solitude. The daily rhythm of prayer focuses on some aspect of the life of Jesus: Mondays, incarnation; Tuesdays, baptism; Wednesdays, transfiguration; Thursdays, the last supper. On Friday, members observe Taizé-like prayers around the cross. On Saturday evening a Sabbath service announces the Resurrection. Sunday is a literal day of rest.

While on the grounds members generally wear habits or, at the Eucharist, white baptismal albs. They extend an invitation to any baptized person to do the same. A communal meal shared by many visitors follows the Eucharist. The liturgical and prayer forms of the community are intentionally contemplative and reflective. Singing plays a great part in all the liturgies. The community follows the Christian year and has developed significant liturgies unique to Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Ascension, Pentecost, Transfiguration, Holy Cross, and Christ Pantokrator, with the One who holds all opposites together in creative tension as the focus of reflection, Easter is a season for renewal of one’s baptismal vows.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery members observe times of silence, stillness, and solitude.

Members have written prayers and liturgies that are ancient and contemporary, meditative, and dynamic, reflective and socially attuned. Holy Transfiguration Monastery has attracted to its membership several master crafts persons and artists. The icons, vestments, architecture, stained glass, and other artistic features embody monastic values of simplicity and holiness. Backed by a well-articulated theology, members offer their gifts to God in gratitude.

Members seek to respect the beauty of creation. With three buildings set aside for worship specifically, nearly a dozen houses, gardens, and a guesthouse, the property encompasses two acres. Once a garbage heap, the Cloister is now a protected bird sanctuary. Members have also been actors in local campaigns to maintain ecological balance in Breakwater through efforts to preserve the habitat along the Barwon River nearby.

The Breakwater community attracts members from many denominations, including the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, and Uniting churches of Australia. Among its advisors are representatives of other monasteries in Australia, including the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mark in Camperdown, and the Cistercian Tarrawarra Abbey in the Yarra River valley.

Holy Transfiguration has maintained a Skete in Melbourne, where the monastery strongly influenced a number of congregations. Communities in Perth in Western Australia, in the United Kingdom, and in the United States are exploring ways to twin or otherwise identify with Holy Transfiguration.

And make that Brunswick too.

an eventful week

so this week was rather eventful for me, all stemming from a 2 minute incident at 12:45pm on Wednesday.

Basically (to make a long story short) I witnessed an altercation between a young man (18ish?) and an older man (mid 70’s?) outside the front of my house. I didn’t see what started it (although I later discovered the young man had asked the older man for money), but I did hear them swearing and yelling at each other before they began fighting, and watched from my window as the younger man picked up our wheelie bin and brought it crashing down on the old man’s head before being chased away by the older man.

I won’t go into the ensuing details of police reports and investigations. Suffice to say I was the only witness to the event, so I was quite popular with the boys in blue for a couple of days. : D What strikes me most as I replay the whole situation is how this kind of thing happens. What could possibly have transpired for an exchange between two complete strangers to escalate to the point it did?

Let me start with the older man. It was his angry voice I heard first, and believe me, he was giving at least as good as he got. The only reason I can think of for him to react so angrily and aggressively was fear. He wasn’t exactly a frail old man, but I imagine he wasn’t in the prime of his life. To have a young guy come and ask you for money (I don’t know how that happened, whether he demanded it forcefully, or just requested it) is confronting, particularly if you feel threatened. The second you feel threatened or fearful, you feel defensive, and react defensively. I think the likelihood is that his defensive reaction was offense.

Then there’s the younger man. Obviously I don’t know his situation, but I do know that this occurred just 20 metres from a piece of graffiti that reads (somewhat like a disclaimer), “If youth allowance wasn’t 52% of the poverty line, I wouldn’t have to steal.” Teasing out the issues involved in that sentence alone could take days (eg/ why write that unless you are genuinely apologetic?). But clearly this kid is not alone in his desperation for that which most of us take for granted – a means to fulfill our most basic needs. No-one begs for money as an entrepreneurial venture. Maybe I’m assuming too much about a situation I barely know anything about, but it makes me feel at least as much sympathy for this kid as for the old man, both caught up in a society of fear. That fear alienates that kid, and it only perpetuates a system of inequality and alienation.

And then there’s me: why didn’t I go and put myself in the situation? Why did I watch it escalate to its conclusion from the safety of my darkened window? Well the answer to that is fear too. Not for my own safety – goodness knows my instinctive reaction to things like this is to act without thinking and jump in aggressively (demonstrated not once, not twice, but thrice) – but for my family. To intervene, I thought, would be to invite the wrath of the young man upon my house; and that meant my family. I still don’t know what to make of that, whether I did the right thing or not. But I acted out of fear, and that alone is, at the very least, sad.

I don’t know what to do about it, I just keep looking at this whole incident and thinking how it’s just a tiny, tiny microcosm of the sadness that is allowed to go on in our society, perpetuated by “a current affair” and our pm and others. I don’t even know how to end this post. I’ll pray for them.