Life Together – Overview
“The restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The proposal may be summarized as a desire to:
- explore the development of an intentional community (sometimes called a new monastic community) within the context and hosting body of Paddington Uniting Church
- call together a core team to discern together the charism and way and rhythm of life together
- commit to live this rhythm (for a 12 month period)
- discern the rhythm within the core community, facilitated by the minister.
The Rhythm of Life aspired to includes elements of study and reflection, worship, sharing of life, and missional action.
- As religious adherence continues to decline significantly in Australia, to build resilience within a core community that practises a reflective/action of faith justice, creativity and inclusiveness.
- That this community be shaped by a rhythm of life that is mutually discerned and committed to on an annual basis. Each proceeding year we release each other from these commitments and re-establish new discerned ones to be apart of our new rhythm of life. New members are free to join and existing members can choose not to continue.
- That this community utilise the Uniting Church decision-making process and ethos, while being ecumenical in focus and practice.
- Model a way of ‘being community’ that can inspire and hold people well.
- Establish a community that is committed to both reflection and action from the core, but open to any people to come alongside.
- Build community resilience (faithfulness) in a post-secular individualist consumerist culture.
- Paddington Uniting Church has a well-deserved reputation for progressive faith, being inclusive, encouraging creativity, and being justice-seeking and doing. However, faced with changes as a relatively small but committed congregation, it is an ongoing challenge to build discipleship through community in the way of Jesus. Historically, Paddington Uniting Church has been financially sustainable thanks to the Paddington Markets that operate on Saturdays. The Gordon Development is a project that will lead to increased income for missional programs and projects of the congregation.
- The Church sits within an affluent suburb with a low religious adherence rate. Many of our members travel from 20-70 minutes to attend worship and have connected with us because of our work or through relational connections.
- Developing discipleship and community is key. This proposal is about drawing on the New Monastic as a model of building this as part of Paddington Uniting Church.
- The project needs 5 – 10 years resourcing and support.
- ‘New monasticism’ refers to a variety of approaches, all drawing inspiration from monastic traditions.
- These include a stronger focus on intentional community, patterns of prayer, contemplation, hospitality, and practical engagement in mission beyond itself (often to the poor) than is normal in an average church setting.
- Like old monasticism, a defining mark of new monastic groups is the rhythm of life or rule that members must make if they are to be part of the intentional community. Anyone is free to come alongside any of the practices of this community.
- Unlike old monasticism, new monastic groups tend to have a dispersed life (though some may have more frequent patterns of gathering than others) and they welcome the people who may be partnered, married, single, or from sexual and gender-diverse backgrounds.
- While some groups may seek to become recognised monastic orders, others draw on aspects of monastic life in their fresh or inherited church setting, without seeking to be a religious order. The exploration at Paddington Uniting would be of the latter.
- Differences arise in relation to size, level of recognition from the wider church and gathered or dispersed patterns. It is also influenced by which monastic tradition provides the source of inspiration and wisdom – i.e. Celtic, Benedictine, or Franciscan. Above all, each new monastic group will have its own particular calling and charism that reflects these variables.
- The particular calling and charism for Paddington Uniting Church will require a time of discernment and study by a group of people who are interested in such a venture. The focus on our Gospel reflection/action practices and the rule of life we seek to live by and support one another in, will take time to discern together. This would be Stage 1 and would last for 6 months.
- The formation group will meet on a regular basis for a meal, for study, and for reflection.
- Stage 1 is to begin to explore together using Mark Berry (Baptist) and Ian Mobsby (Anglican) work on A New Monastic Handbook as to contextually study guide in preparation. We also seek the support and guidance of the new missions’ consultant at the Synod.
- Stage 2 would be the launch of the community.
- Stages 3 and 4 could include projects that support and sustain the community’s actions and reflections. This could be related to the discerned call and charism. Housing and the expansion of shared life could also develop during these stages.
Today, the Church and the Christian faith face major cultural challenges, even for ourselves who are located on the more progressive edge, seeking to engage proactively with society and culture. Much of the post-industrial Western world is increasingly post-church (a culture where the majority of the population do not attend church or no longer see the Church as a major feature of life), post-Christian, or Post-Theist (a culture once predominantly Christian and shaped by such values and common grand myths about God and life is now pluralistic), economically rationalist, multi-faith and multicultural. In a consumption-driven market the old forms of Christendom are framed as either abusive or exploitative. We seem to be moving to a post-secular age which views religion as dead and has birthed the spiritual seeker movement
Many people are comfortable and well off while others are struggling, but most have little time to consider their spiritual/relational life beyond consumption, individualism, and tribal self-protectionism. Apathy on one level and powerlessness on the other pervade many in their engagement with the political and capital holders of our age.
With just Sunday worship or maybe the occasional event, many churches struggle to live out the compassionate way of Christ as good news of justice and reconciliation grounded in community and a rhythm of life. The consumer and entertainment culture, and the highly mobile population within our cities, presents a real challenge to go deeper both spiritually and in community.
Approaches to our Context
- The preparation of an annual written rhythm of life that includes seasons of study, spiritual practice and reflection, community meals (hospitality), and engagement in missional activities (Social Action and service to the community).
- A communal commitment to being Gospel in missional and contextual practice.
- A communal commitment to participatory governance embracing the Uniting Church’s ethos and practice.
- A communal commitment to worship that is creative, participatory, contemplative and contextually grounded.
- A communal commitment to inclusion, the practice of hospitality to all, and which is non-dualist and non-tribal.
- A communal commitment to a ‘body of Christ’ embodiment that is non-empire building but focussed on sharing the compassion of Jesus.
- A communal commitment to allow experiment and creativity in relation to both the spirit and practice of the rhythm of life.
- A communal commitment to be radical yet fully integrated into the local church.
- A communal commitment to be deeply grounded at the centre but fluid and welcoming at the edges of all reflection and practice in the community.
- A communal commitment to the ‘whole of life’ welfare of each other (and all those we connect with) as a sign of loving our neighbour well.
For all who are interest in exploring this way of being in community, join us this Wednesday at 7 pm at Paddignton Uniting Church 395 Oxford Street, Paddington.