Thursday, April 30, 2009

Neo-monastic community

In a recent Christian Century issue, Holy Nativity, an Episcopal Church in Los Angeles was featured by writer Amy Frykholm. "Church as Hosting Community" offered some very thoughtful ideas for consideration.

Episcopal priest, Peter Rood has worked at offering as many entry points in their neo-monastic community as possible. "Church is a place where people should be able to pursue religious paths that have meaning for them personally. Doctrinal agreement is not an issue. Rood says that he does not worry who will stay, for how long or for what. Membership he regards as largely an outdated concept."

Rood is using the model of a monastery for the parish. Hospitality is the main function of Holy Nativity. Everyone brings a gift he says and he hopes everyone takes a gift with them.

The parish has a community garden, offers cooking classes, has a jazz mass with young musicians, and teaches classes on meditation. His goal is to "provide a place of hospitality and discernment."

The neo-monastic model is unique to its location, what is possible in Los Angeles is a challenge for Tempe - but what is authentic to Tempe would be dis-ingenuous to anywhere in California. The important thing about the neo-monastic model is to find ways for each community to to make a gift, an offering, to the community in which they live and hope to serve out the calling of the community.

I am encouraged by Peter Rood and Holy Nativity. To hear that the community of God is being nourished and is growing around Benedictine precepts in the confines of parish life is inspiring.

Too often our specific communities have been given a discouraging message, one which offers little hope, in other words, the ship of the Episcopal Church is sinking. Even our own General Convention is spending time looking at Emergent models in hopes of finding a way of survival.

Rood may have the best answer - look at our past as our strength. Episcopal Church stop wringing your hands and instead put them together to pray and work, like the monks in LA.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Transitions are often scary. We are leaving one space, often comfortable if only because we know our way to the places we need to go. While we are going to a place where we might have trouble discovering the things very critical to our survival, like the el bano.

The frightening place though I think is the liminal space, the place of transition, that often holds me back. Those are the places that scare me. Several of my good friends are in those transitional places, the place in between the old and the new. Each has willingly taken the risk to go beyond what was to move into the what could be. These are inspirational people.

My grandfather was a truck driver most of his adult life. While working he traveled the main highways, trying to make good time. Time meant money and he needed it to care for his family.

But when my grandfather was not driving his truck he always took the back roads, the roads that took him through small towns with tiny cafes. He knew the dinner with the best lunch, the one with the blackest coffee and the little six seat pie shop with the sweetest apple pie in the county. It seemed we traveled for the sake of eating. Of course, as I grew older I realized he stopped at those places because of the people who he knew who lived in the area or worked in the cafe. We traveled for the sake of fellowship and community.

We traveled a lot of miles together, always in transition, going from one place to another - the best part though was being in the in between places, that was where my grandfather told me the stories of his life. Without the linimal spaces, I wouldn't know my grandfather or our family history.

To my many friends in transition, my prayers are with you - prayers that you may find your stories somewhere in the in between space.