Our first Monday night together, this round, was really an orientation to the Abbey, including what to expect this year, some favorite definitions of spiritual transformation, and some values for journeying together.
The definition of an abbey is a “building where monks or nuns live(d),” so we pictured the Abbey of Iona in Scotland (pictured) and wondered how our lives this year could also be safer, simpler, more strategic places to worship well. We also pictured the (alleged) “watch tower” at Iona, with rickety, ladder stairs leading to an arch cut-out overlooking the entrance of the monastery, through a small door with the words “Stand Fast” engraved on it. Here the monk on duty would sit and look down the road for the arrival of a stranger, in order to eagerly invite them in for a warm meal and place to sleep. So we also wondered how being part of the Abbey might increase our capacity and willingness to eagerly “watch for” others, down the varying roads of our lives, in order to share generously out of our (respective, holistic) wealth.
Worshipping well and becoming watchers and sharers in the world are a few ways to describe the Abbey’s trajectory. Another guiding image for the Abbey is of course the “heart,” with Academy tending the “mind,” and Apostolate looking to love God with the “hands.” What that means to me is that the Abbey is about growing in intimacy with God, partially through the cultivation of contemplative practices that situate us for a more “by heart,” experiential-knowing of God’s love. Hopefully one of the fruits will be increased awareness of and discernment around God’s heart too - for us, for our church, and for the world.
Some of the other things we hope to do this year are:
Slowly make our way through Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved by Trevor Hudson, including a couple “Holy Experiments” a month
Craft (or refresh) a Rule of Life
Develop and lead “Solidarity Prayers” at Big Tables, using a reflection exercise and template to prepare prayers around current events, issues, or for people groups that we (each, individually) have a heart for
Explore Sabbath principles related to how we use our time and money
Share opportunities to sample individual and group spiritual direction
Work towards personal, creative “final projects,” perhaps through an evening of sharing art and stories and songs, planning and leading a retreat, or many other options….
The 5 values I shared for us going forward were:
Experimenting - cultivating the imagination, trying things out, not worrying about “doing it right/wrong,” and viewing “negative” results as potentially useful (or revelatory) along the way
Eating - a priority for really taking in and internalizing the ideas/practices, rather than trying to “cover” more or “get farther”; this requires some pacing and trust around the invisible process of “digestion”
Enjoyment - remembering that living with God, and enjoying God’s presence (and being enjoyed) is a valid end-in-itself. Even though there are fruits to spending time with God and growing in intimacy with God, the relationship itself isn’t just a means to becoming better, or more spiritual, or less anxious. Remembering that it’s enough to “be” with God also gives us permission to let “enjoyment,” or delight, “lead” us, rather than thinking the “hard” or dreaded way must be the surefire way to growth.
Experience - choosing to share out of our personal experience, and keeping the focus of our sharing on ourselves, rather than addressing/problem-solving, or advising another in their sharing
Even now - a priority for the present moment, and what actually happens (when we pray, meet, worship, retreat), rather than what we had planned or think should happen
We just scratched the surface, but it was a good start!