Brothers who cannot come to the oratory at the appointed hours – because of their distance labor – should say the Divine Office where they are, kneeling in fear of God.
Who do I pray with?
Part of my personal reflections as I read the Rule of St. Benedict has been on my place within the Northumbria Community. My noviciate process has been stalled for two years now and recently I have been revisiting my future of the journey with them. I called a stop to the noviciate process due to my difficulties with the dispersed nature of the community. Despite having local groups that meet to encourage living out the Rule of Life and to have fellowship with, I have never found a group local enough. As a parish minister I feel a strong connection with my geographical location, serving and praying for the people in the area I live and work. I feel I would benefit from a community who walk the Rule of Life in that location asking the question, ‘How then shall we live… here?’
I still find the Rule of Life for the Northumbria Community enriching and challenging and I find myself returning to it and wrestling with its questions. I still say the Daily Office regularly and have settled into a sustained rhythm embedded over five years. I have made annual retreats to the Mother House over the years and contribute a relational tithe to them each month. I still feel a deep connection with the Northumbria Community and value their friendship and prayers but is the season changing now?
Part of my reflections on my relationship with the dispersed community has been the question of prayer and how it connects me into the community. Each morning, lunchtime and evening when I sit down to pray the Daily Office I feel a connection with the community, mainly those praying at the Mother House in Northumberland. I think of them often, sitting in Nether Springs, preparing meals, cleaning rooms for guests, leading workshops, pausing to say those shared words that I too am saying several miles south in my parish. It is the rhythm of prayer that connects me most; connects me into the established relationship with specific people and, in a smaller way to unknown members of the community across the world.
Over time, however, I find that I think of them less as my mind turns to my more immediate community in the parish. I now consider those who sit with me in situ regularly praying the Daily Office with me. My prayer ‘home’ is no longer up in Northumberland but here in York.
I have moved.
This is significant when considering what rhythm you pray to. I am feeling less and less of a relational connection with the people in Nether Springs (the Mother House of Northumbria Community) not because I love them any less or that I don’t desire to be with them more but because my rhythm of life has had to change. The Rule still stands as root for me to return to but the Daily Office has become less of that connection than it did. I don’t pray at the same time as my fellow journeyers up in Nether Springs due to the different work days that we have. I no longer pray for the same people as I focus my prayers on the local area with the prayers of the people around me.
Where does this leave me in my relationship with the Northumbria Community?
Many would say it doesn’t matter where you are, you engage with the community when and where you like; that’s what it means to be a dispersed community.
You’re expecting too much. It is too idealistic.
Maybe that’s true but I still have a deep call to be part of an intentional community which is rooted in the monastic tradition and part of that call, for me, is about location.
Another question I have is about the alternatives. I have yet to see God leading me to start an intentional community where I am at this point in time. I will soon be moving on from current role and it would be foolish and impractical to start anything now. I have, however, sensed there is a group of people orbiting the idea of this form of community discipleship in York and there is the potential bubbling up. What that looks like, how it would work and what Sarah and my role in that is has yet to be discerned. As my mind thinks over this possibility I think less of the Northumbria Community and more about the people who seem to share a call to intentional community in York.
Having prayed for over a year now around this subject all I can say is that I feel called to be a part of a group of disciples who live and work close to one another, who live out a life of prayer, study, dialogue and worship with one another, who have a passion for reconciliation, healing and creativity. I want to explore this with people who live close to me who can share my life as I share theirs and we share the life of Christ with the world.
Parish life lends itself to a community at prayer in and for a specific location. Each morning and each evening I pray for my geographical area, I lift their needs and questions to God on their behalf and I am privileged to share that task with a small group of others who sit with me and support me. When I am unable to meet with them I still pray, wherever I am or they are and I do not feel alone… Of course I am not alone in prayer as thousands (if not millions) of others are praying with me at the same time, they’re just not in that room with me physically and that is where my reflections return.
Where is my physical community at prayer? Where is the community who not only say prayers with me but live out the prayers with me, who know me, know my heart, challenge me, pray for me and speak God’s word into my life?
Father, you are with me and by your Spirit you pray through me. You have called me to this place with a particular vocation and ministry. Keep me faithful to your timing and rhythm. Lead me in the way of Christ and gather round me the Body of Christ that I may play my part in it.
Come, Lord Jesus.