Monday, May 30, 2005

what does 'The Monastery' have to tell us about evangelism?

i, like many others, have thoroughly enjoyed watching the mini-series 'The Monastery' the last 3 Tuesday evenings. for those of you who missed it, it was a kind of monastic 'Big Brother' type of reality show. (and BTW i think i am just NOT going to watch any of the latest BB - i think you have to make an upfront decision cos once you start watching it it kinda sucks you in and destroys your soul). 5 guys from diverse walks of life (one worked in the soft porn industry, another was a Buddhist scholar, another was involved in the loyalist paramilitaries in N Ireland etc.) who all went and spent 40 days with the Brothers at Worth Abbey in Sussex.
Anyway, it seemed to me that what happened with these guys had quite a lot to say about how we 'do' evangelism. normally, evangelism takes the form of The People In The Know dispensing The Knowledge (not in the London cabbie sense) to the great unwashed; whereas what was happening with the guys in the programme was that they were being invited to be part of the pray with the community, work with them, just be with them doing whatever they did. and the monks certainly weren't seeker sensitive in terms of adapting their worship to make it more 'intelligible'. and these guys were really impacted with many of them having a profound experience of 'the other'.
Now, I know that we are supposed to know all about 'belonging before believing' and all of that sort of thing but it was nice to see it in action. in my experience 'belonging before believing' can mean that we include non-churched people into our social networks but it doesn't often mean that they participate in our worship with us. as these guys were 'bathed in liturgical rhythms' and included in all aspects of the community they were changed.

But i do have a nagging question. a lot of us have been inspired by the monastic tradition in recent years - i certainly have been. and a lot of us are exploring monastic values and practices in our communities - we certainly are. and i am convinced that there are few things as potent as living in (monastic) community to really change us as people. but in our re-contextualisation of monastic values and practices have we left out the really life-changing stuff?? is it the raw experience of living in residential community, corporately praying together 5 times a day (including the middle of the night), working together etc. etc. that carries the ability to transform us; and do our attempts to take the ethos, the values, and the practices of monasticism and transplant and 'virtualise' them into the context of contemporary culture rob them of their power?

I mean, it's all very well to be called to prayer in a dispersed community by an SMS message rather than the chapel bell in the cloisters, but is it just missing the point?

personalised google

google are now offering the possibility of personalising your google home page. you can opt to have your latest gmail e mails on disply along with a local weather forecast and lots of other 'widgets' of your choosing. you can even drag and drop them around the page to your liking. visit google labs and click the link.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

sometimes you just need to put your feet in the earth (or the sand in this case)

Pip and I got away for 24 hours this weekend just gone to visit some friends in the town where we first met - Chichester in West Sussex on the South Coast where we both used to live. just south of Chichester there's an absolutely fantastic beach - one of the best beaches i have found in the UK - in a place called West Wittering. we managed to get some time there on Sunday morning. it was fantastic. and this is a very therepeutic thing to do.....

Originally uploaded by Matt Rees.

there's not many beaches to beat this....

Originally uploaded by Matt Rees.


trailer for the first of the Narnia films - 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' - can be viewed here. it looks quite good. out this december.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

church un-spun

I was talking to Pete Ward yesterday and he was telling me about a woman who has done some research on spirituality in Kendal in the Lake District..looking at church life/growth and the growth of alternative spiritualities. one interesting thing that came out of it was that when she was talking to yoga practitioners, reiki healers etc. etc. they were all keen to make sure that their name was included in the report. however, when she was talking to people in the church they were really concerned about anonymity ("you ain't seen me, right?"). this led to an interesting conversation about a culture of secrecy and perhaps fear in our churches, where people are afraid to challenge or critique what they see for fear of being labelled a troublemaker or 'speaking out against the Lord's anointed'.
i heard RT Kendall speak the other day (back to the old school!) at the New Wine Leaders conference. it totally wasn't my culture at all but it was interesting in a number of ways. in the last session he spoke about 'total forgiveness' from the life of Joseph. and he was saying that one of the ways that you know that you have forgiven someone is that you never tell anyone what they have done to you (he thought it was allowable to tell ONE other person for therepeutic reasons) other words to 'cover their shame'. he talked about our desire to tell others what has been done to us being a strategy we employ to try to turn others against the person who has wronged us.
a lot of what he said made sense but there is still part of me that thinks that if we aren't careful we end up colluding with this culture of spin where we have to maintain the myth that everything in the garden is lovely. do we keep our hearts right, be generous, kind, and forgiving, yet at the same time work towards having transparent communities of faith?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Monastery

a new series started on BBC2 on Tuesday evening called 'The Monastery'. The idea being that 5 men from a variety of backgrounds enter Worth Abbey near Crawley for 40 days to try to find some meaning for their lives. It's a 3 part series following their experiences. i missed this week's episode as i was away at a conference but a friend taped it so i'll be watching it soon. it looks fascinating and it makes me wonder whether those of us exploring a re-contextualized monasticism are perhaps tapping into something that has an appeal in the culture. when we began to plant hOME 2 years ago i talked a lot about us not planting a church but planting a monastery. it's a big vision, and as with all of these things, it takes longer than you think. but we have made a decent start - focusing on the building of community and living by a rule-of-life. and it seems like there is a recovery of the radical missional side of monasticism that was certainly present in celtic monasticism as practiced in these islands (now the UK). surely the fact that so many groups and churches around the world have begun to re-explore the monastic tradition is a sign that the Spirit is doing something.

Originally uploaded by Matt Rees.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

high on democracy

been to vote first thing this morning. i like the fact that we get to vote twice (actually 3 times cos you get 2 votes in the local elections). it meant i was able to mix and match my vote. so in the parliamentary vote i voted Lib Dems (they were always going to win in our constituency but i would have voted for them anyway cos don't we all believe that tactical voting is of the devil?) and voted for 1 Lib Dem and 1 Green councillor in the local vote. i know that traditionally in this country you're not supposed to tell anyone who you vote for but i think that's nonsense so i'm telling you.
it is a wierd feeling - voting. wierd in a good way. you really do feel like you are empowered and have a say...even though your contribution is minimal and i do question how much power there is even in democracy to actually make a difference.
My friend Chris makes this point well when he writes:

"So I say, in the end, vote for whoever you want, because they probably
aren't going to run the country radically differently than the other 2
parties any how. But make sure to make a difference in what you the life that God has called us to live: seeking justice,
defending the poor, offering the good news, etc. That's the stuff
that really matters, and that's what's gonna make a difference...if we
all focussed on what more we could do as individuals rather than what
the rich white boys are doing in London, I think we'd start to see
real change. Practically speaking, things like racism and greed and
shallow consumerism aren't going to be changed by policies imposed
from the top-down, they're going to change based on individual efforts
of folks like us. I guess at heart I'm really an anarchist!"

This makes me ask questions about the almost religious zeal of people like President Bush who seems to be making something of a a personal crusade out of bringing democracy to the whole world. (perhaps he should have started with Florida!). i still think it's probably the best system we have available but perhaps we are over optimistic about it sometimes.

i started this post feeling really positive about the democratic process and by the end of it the shine has already worn off somewhat!