Monthly Archives: April 2015

Intentional

Having visited Lee Abbey for a holiday on a number of occasions now, I have become aware of the appeal of an intentional community. Becoming the body of Christ, each member valued, is purposeful.

How though can being a body be achieved when people are gathered to communities that are so apart? People rarely engage with one another and certainly, in the church I am part of, small communities are secondary to the vision of the whole church and a main meeting.

This suits a lot of people and they are very blessed by it. They are able to be effective in their settings and carry an energy that certainly appears to be fulfilling. Church communities are formed around ministries, such as leadership, worship, social enterprise or youth. The momentum is through the task or sometimes a particular type of meeting. But this is not what I want.

Some people are able to function by networking within their work place where Christians gather. Others find involvement in a hobby, sports club or Gym satisfies. Interests such as running, cycling or bird watching have a draw as does support for a sports team. Surprisingly, need or disaffection can be a seed for community. This again is not what I want.

Deep down I have a need to grow spiritually and to be active in society as a whole. In my heart I need a source for being that starts with God but ends up blessing my neighbour. At Takeley Chapel I have seen the beginnings of how this might be achieved. I hope and pray that one day I might see it fulfilled. Currently we meet for breakfast and prayer on a Sunday morning; I would like to see the Sunday evening cafe meeting flourish and a monthly Friday evening community supper added.

The spiritual aspect I will come to, but practically what we could have is a menu of activities based around sharing meal times. These are natural breaks; breakfast sets us up for the day, coffee for the evening and Friday supper ends a work week. All these meetings should have an all age focus where children are able to participate and there are no restrictions on who might participate; all learning styles should be encompassed. There should not be a burden of preparation only inspiration

Children can be involved with adults in craft activities without a great need to organise anything special. In fact there should be room for people to be outdoors or even break out in to other spaces. The purpose is to be friends and families together.

Time should be flexible with people being able to leave when they are ready. Of course where there are activities then people need to know when these are happening but they should not be at the start of any meeting, to allow for people to arrive when they are able and still be a part.

What I am envisioning is threefold:

  • A Sunday morning prayer group arranged around the materials provide by lyfe.org.uk; the pattern is to reflect on a spiritual discipline through a bible verse and various materials. Through prayer, reflection and as a result of the teaching, participants agree to explore spiritual challenges for the week. These challenges might result in poetry or song, art or craft which can be shared the next week so that each meeting is organic. People may then go home, go on to attend other church meetings or decide to engage in some kind of recreational activity.
  • During the week participants would also follow the New Daylight materials provided by brf.org.uk, journaling, sharing their insights when they can over refreshments on a Sunday evening. The benefits of this would be to have a sense that on each day, not only are we pursuing the weekly exercise from Sunday morning and growing in our Spiritual knowledge, but each of us is on a shared prayer journey based on scripture. The resource is convenient as each day has a printed version of the scripture, a comment and a reflection or prayer and an audio version is available.
  • Each month, on the first Friday, early in the evening, a simple supper could be shared where people bring contributions and there may be sung worship. Those who are gifted may be invited to preach; those with insight may share what they they believe God is showing them. Communion will be shared and after prayer ministry, any business could be discussed that needs to be decided ending with refreshments and recreational activities. The source of this inspiration would be intimate groups of two or three, maybe organised around the renovare resources or other ministries that participants felt met their needs, meeting weekly.

It is hoped that as  result of this intentional life together, members would be effective employees, engage in other communities and serve the society they are part of, effectively, from a heart grounded in God.

It would only take two or three people to commit to this community to make it work. From it we may renew the communities we are part of and revive the gospel witness in Takeley.

Grafted

When a branch is to be grafted in to the stump of a vine, the vine is cut back to a stump and left to bleed. After a number of days an incision is made into the stump and a fresh branch grafted in and bound. The graft takes its life from then on from the stump and in time the graft becomes part of the vine.
This is the illustration from nature that Jesus took to inform our imaginations of what being in him means. Being in Christ is a Christian’s idenity and through Jesus’ death and resurection we are in spirit and truth joined to the people of God. Being grafted in we draw our life from Christ and inherit his everflowing nature; one with the Son yet fully us. The promised flowing of life is God the Spirit.
There is an even deeper truth. It is God, the Father who is the gardener. It is the Father who cuts back the vine to a stump and it is his hand that makes the incision and graft. It is him also who tends the vine. He cuts back the branches so that they may fruit.
Fruit grows on new growth. This is a labour of love and it takes some years before a branch is allowed to fruit as the buds on the new graft are chosen to grow. From then on the pinching out of buds and the cutting back of the branch become part of the life of the branch. This is the picture Jesus chooses to show us what being alive in him is and how we relate to the Father and the Spirit.
As we feel ourselves pinched, cut back and we observe fruit, Jesus gives us the confidence and reassurance that we are grafted into the vine. His loving words reassure us because, if a branch is removed, it dies, it is not tended; a cut off branch is burned. It is the gardener who does this. If we have any sense of our need we know the Spirit’s life is in us and the Father will tend us to bring new life, growth and fruitfulness. If we were discarded we would not long for this as we would be dead. Being cut out is not a threat; Jesus tells us this so that we might be full of his joy and this joy might be active.
The promise is that as we draw life from Jesus and make our home in him, he makes his home in us. Because of the flow of life from the stump, we can ask for what we wish, and it will be done for us.
A fruitful vine brings glory to the vine dresser. If we draw life from Jesus’ words we will know our need and we will ask. In asking we abide; we draw life from the Son. So the heart’s longing is the sign of life and we can trust the good work of the gardener, our Father in Heaven, to make us fruitful and give us what we need.

John 15:1-11