Hospitality IV

This is the final post in the Hospitality series. I can hardly wait to tell you the news: three new members are living with us. The next post will introduce them.

Living generously

Being available to others is one of the principles we want to focus on in the community and I see it as an expression of generosity in common life. In the long run it is also important to look after oneself and spend time apart charging one’s batteries. God’s generosity is always available to us in His presence, but we cannot practically offer our every waking moment. Thankfully in a community it is easier at any given time to find someone who is free to give of their time.

These are still early days for us and we expect the first members to move into Lunesdale Community in the summer 2017. Already now we have implemented many details and routines in daily life which are preparing the way for a generous way of life in which giving your time counts: opening up, being present, serving others and valuing each moment and conversation. Since the beginning we have tried to create a pattern of life where these concepts exist naturally as part of common and private life. Stability, commitment and the support of the community can help us with being faithful to these aims.

picnic in June 2017

Sunday walk to Crook O’Lune:
enjoying each other’s company 
and celebrating a summer’s day
at a picnic.

Spiritual gifts to share

The Rule of Taizé mentions spiritual generosity, which means sharing your own discoveries. One of the main ideas of Lunesdale Community is seeking spiritual and personal growth and also sharing these fruits with others. We hope to extend this as wide as possible in the future and organise open events where the themes of growth are discussed.

Many guests come through our door and some are not Christians while others are the cornerstones of their congregations. Many of them are for ever trying to arrange space in their lives to pause regularly in front of God. At Lunesdale Community everyone is invited to stop twice a day for half an hour for the common prayer. The evening prayer is also open to people in the village. We sing songs from Taizé, read a short Bible passage and spend a long period in silence. This tried and tested format helps both newcomers and those familiar with it to calm down and offer the time to God.

A friend says that if you make time and space for God in your life, he will never be outdone in generosity. What I would like to communicate to others is that through nurturing the spiritual life it becomes possible to find some clarity, wisdom and courage to make one’s own choices which are directed by seeking one’s own vocation and God’s will and recognising one’s gifts. In our community, in regular times of prayer we offer the space for becoming aware of God’s whispers in the silence of the heart and the time to let a response mature. The common prayer is perhaps the most valuable thing we have to offer. It is an essential part of the generous way of life in which we open our lives to our neighbours.

Anna

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Hospitality III

Breaking bread

When Jesus visited Martha and Mary, Martha was aware that the body isn’t nourished by the Spirit alone and that ‘someone here has got to do the cooking’ for the hungry travellers. Unfortunately, it isn’t enjoyable to stay with a resentful and tired hostess. My solution would probably have been to divide the tasks between everybody or invite them to talk around the hearth, so that the cook would feel like they are at the centre of events. Perhaps I would have invited the neighbours round to hear Jesus teach, but asked them to bring a dish each to share. I like to invite people to visit at mealtimes, and I don’t let the lack of advance preparations stop me.

Vallechiara table

 

Sunday lunch in Vallechiara,
a monastery which we visited
in Italy in 2007.

 

 

At the Lunesdale Community we arrange potluck dinners with the ecumenical study group, because breaking bread together brings people closer together and makes the occasion more special. Another reason of a more practical nature is that rustling up a meal when rushing in from work would be difficult. Whenever several people gather like this, a festive meal is brought into being. The value of the occasion lies possibly in the encounter, a moment of beauty which is made more special perhaps by the lighting of candles, saying grace and lingering at the table. That means staying still and immersing oneself in the conversation, even if that results in forgetting to offer any coffee after.

dogs in BathHow difficult it seems to clear space in life (and make compromises) for lingering! All sorts of projects on top of paid work take up time – not to mention the children, the dogs and the poor husband who often gets neglected.

 

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Hospitality II

Morbacka winter

Main house in Morbacka

Beautiful memories from Morbacka Retreat Home came back while I looked through old photos for this post. All the pictures were taken in January 2007. I hope one day we will hold annual young adults’ pilgrimage weekends at Lunesdale Community; that was so significant to my formation. Thank you to everyone who played a part in them! Here is the second bit of the article I promised.

Experiences from communities

Our large house acts as a reminder of how much we have been given. All good things come from God, and I think they are meant to be shared with others. Many times I have come to notice that sharing something doesn’t mean that I lose somehow, but rather it makes it more special.

We are ultimately looking for long-term members, and although someone might come to stay only a little while with us, the purpose is not just offering accommodation. This has lead to a change in my attitude to receiving guests. We would like to promote equality among members and avoid the host-guest hierarchy. Hospitality means including people in our everyday life and tasks, and this can hopefully make them feel “part of us”. Work and play continue, while gardening, doing the laundry or setting the table belongs to everybody. Guests have indeed done their best to participate in the activities, and after sharing some of the mundane as well as the extraordinary times of life, have moved on. My hope is that they take away an experience of being accepted and included.

Anyone staying with the community also plays a part in offering hospitality. The one doing the dishes today is also tomorrow’s host through their participation and service. Anyone can be at the giving or receiving end as part of the greater whole, and all tasks can be seen to serve the common good. Serving others in everyday gestures give life meaning regardless of talent or qualifications.

I meMorbacka tableasure many community-related aspects in terms of the Morbacka Community in Finland, where I used to visit for young adults’ weekends and retreats. I don’t care much for extravagance or pretentiousness, but homeliness and the sharing of simple pleasures make an impression on me. In the experience of hospitality which Morbacka Morbacka readingprovided, the most important things were the place being so cosy and steeped in love and there being time for un-rushed conversations. A perfect addition was coming into the unreserved presence of God in the daily prayers.Morbacka map

Pilgrimage weekend programme

Pilgrimage weekend programme

 

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Hospitality

The next few blog posts are a translation of an article which was originally written by myself in Finnish for a publication of Hiljaisuuden Ystävät (Friends of Silence) in February 2017. It feels appropriate to speak about this topic on the day of returning home from the Birmingham Taizé event where we were hosted by a lovely family in a parish.

Birgitta reading at St Martin’s in the evening prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOSPITALITY AS AN AIM IN COMMUNITY

In the midst of cautionary tales about making friends with people on the internet, we have shown to our children that you can allow strangers close to you. Over the years we have accommodated numerous people through networks called Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing, and had fascinating conversations at the breakfast table. We have also benefited from people’s hospitality through these links in different countries around Europe. In these systems people offer hospitality without compensation or reciprocity; however, there is a hope of one day being at the receiving end while travelling. The people within these networks give the impression of living according to the golden rule: in showing hospitality I treat others as I wish myself to be treated.

I notice that when an atmosphere of love and peace is cherished in the home, there is plenty to go around and to be shared. Similarly, when my second child was born, I learned that there was enough love to show both children: love doubled instead of being halved. That’s what God’s love is like which surrounds us. When God pours his love on us, there is no space for favouritism, comparison or debt of gratitude. At this feast there is room for everyone, and I don’t need to worry whether I get the best seat at the table.

Taizé’s concept of the pilgrimage of trust is something I try to live out. That includes being hospitable to everyone and accepting differences. The most important things are letting other people close and opening your home, giving your time and true encounter. You can always bring out more chairs to add to the table and offer at least a glass of water or a cup of tea.

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Christ is risen!

I tried to dedicate Lent to pondering the question ‘why did Jesus have to die’. Or, maybe more accurately, questioning the question. My Lenten reading was the Stature of Waiting (W.H. Vanstone, 1982) alongside our house group book The Things He Did (Stephen Cottrell, 2016). I’d really recommend all of Cottrell’s books where he paints imaginative pictures of Biblical events or characters. The former book was hard work because I’m not a big friend of wordiness, as my husband would tell you, but it was worth it in the end. Vanstone’s point is that God allowed Himself to be handed over in the passion, and Jesus had to wait as a recipient for people’s decision on how to react to His invitation. His glory was revealed in the waiting in Gethsemane perhaps better than in the cross. When we think of man as created in the image of God, it doesn’t mean that only our activity and creativity reflect how we are meant to live, but there is value also in being done unto, receiving, in waiting. This raises interesting questions about the people who need the help and service of others.

Why did Jesus have to die? There is a familiar and neat corner in my Nordic Protestant soul which accommodates all the off-the-shelf answers and to which I can retreat when I feel worthless (yet loved) and sinful. However, in the last 20 years I’ve grown uncomfortable with many of the quick Christian answers. As I’ve journeyed towards Easter, I’ve become to realise that the real question to me is ‘why did Jesus have to rise from the dead?’ My faith is resurrection faith. It’s the LIFE in Jesus, the streams of living water flowing from Him, and His resurrection which give depth to His message. The resurrection mobilised the disciples and gives hope, even today. It brings an understanding of a living God, accessible throughout the ages. It tells about the importance of LIFE, and draws our attention to Jesus’ life, through which God showed what His love is really like.

Easter picture

Lord, you broke bread with Judas and lovingly washed his feet
knowing he was just about to betray you.
Help me believe in my heart that there is no space for guilt or shame in love.
As your loving gaze rests upon me, 
teach me to see others through the same eyes of love.
Amen.

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Light in the darkness

Early winter’s morning
a single flame shines a little light.
It brings the whole room to life
shadows of angel chimes in the ceiling.
The contrast makes darkness visible.

Your light
in every living thing.

Lord, in your presence
our shortcomings are so apparent.
But you only long to draw us to yourself
to melt away our shame and confusion
in the warmth of your love.

Your love
in every living thing.

I am drawn at Advent to God
who chooses to come as a helpless baby
in contrast with power and force and law and fear.
Come, Prince of Peace, Morning Star.
Your Kingdom come.

Your truth
in all our hearts.

~Anna

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Breathing in the Divine

Did you know that your very first and your last breath in this life are prayer? I came across this thought in a video where Richard Rohr spoke about the Yahweh prayer. Apparently the letters of the Hebrew word Yahweh are pronounced without using the lips or tongue, and whispering them sounds like breathing in and out. No matter what religion, ideology or culture, people still constantly breathe the name of their Creator. That image describes quite well my feelings regarding the intimateness of my relationship with God.

I like the awareness of breathing in prayer, and the simpler the better. I’d like to share with you now my own prayer which draws together what I’ve learned of Pilates breathing exercises, the Jesus prayer and Celtic circling prayer. Circling prayer is drawing a circle around you pointing at the ground with a finger while turning a circle. It is to keep you safe, and you pray about things that you would like to keep inside and outside the circle. The words for circling prayer might be:

through-wire

 

Circle me O Lord,
keep hope within,
keep despair out.

 
Pilates teaches a breathing technique and I often use it to regain better posture and to relieve tension in the upper body and especially my neck which causes problems. The Jesus prayer is used especially in the Eastern Church tradition, and the aim in simple terms is to become still and humble before God. It can be prayed by breathing in during the words “Jesus Christ Son of God” and breathing out for “have mercy on me, a sinner”. Some people adopt shorter forms.

My prayer is a combination of these. When breathing in, I think of something which I would like to prevail in my life, and breathing out, I think of something I want to get rid of. So I might pray about belief – unbelief (as the man who said to Jesus: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”). Examples of other good pairs of opposites are peace – restlessness, calm – nervousness, trust – fear, joy – sadness, love – hatred, forgiveness – bitterness, life – death and so on.

There are three stanzas, and I stay with each one repeating it for a while to the rhythm of my breathing, only moving onto the next once I’m fully confident with the first one, once I fully own what I’m saying. I breathe in God’s divine quality and breathe out my own failing. The choice of the word depends on what I’m feeling or in need of at that time. I might sit already in prayer, lie down while practising pelvic floor muscles or stand waiting for the bus! The breathing flows in and out slowly, with a break in between.

riverside-picnic

 

In you there is peace – in me there is restlessness.
Your peace – my restlessness.
Peace – restlessness.

 

 

 

I find this really helpful when I’m stressed or worried or if my mind wonders when I’d like to focus in prayer. It can also help with being mindful/living in the moment and de-cluttering my mind from the nonsense that fills it. What do you struggle with at the moment, and what would be a good opposite to pray with? Let me know if you find this helpful.

Anna

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One thing I ask

In the summer while travelling and staying with people it seemed very difficult to maintain a pattern of personal prayer. I more or less manged to do a bit of reading and reflection in the mornings before getting out of bed, but apart from that it was mainly the beauty of nature that brought me to stillness and the appreciation of the Creator God. This has always been an important part of my view of the world and expression of faith, and of course by being on the move and spending time with family and friends you learn a great deal about them, the world and yourself.

Displaying IMG_20160826_151354743.jpgDisplaying IMG_20160814_133156155.jpg

 

However, it is finally now after being back for some days and settling down again that I notice how good it is to return to the regular prayer pattern. In our times of common prayer, unless we just sit in silence for half an hour, we often sing Taizé songs and have a short reading from the Bible. I like the Celtic Daily Prayer book which gives two annual cycles of readings and meditations as well as the Northumbria Community’s liturgies for the daily office and some special services which can be done with smaller or larger groups of people in the home. In addition there is a calendar of some saints’ days and material for celebrating them. We often dip into these texts as a guide to our meditation, but the main element of the prayer is silence.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4

The psalm describes well my longing to be near God and to dedicate time to staying in his presence. This was probably the main motivation for my desire for community life and it’s important to me that the whole community gathers together and supports each other in observing the agreed times. Because without that structure, even though I long to have that prayerful time and acknowledge its importance, I would get the priorities wrong and something else would take precedence over the prayer.

In the silence I can, with the help of picking a word or two from the Bible reading, clear the worries of the day off my mind and focus on the divine qualities of God and his will for me instead. This helps me to trust him completely and abandon the situations and people of my life to his care. The way which I describe here is similar to the practice of lectio divina: please look it up if you are interested.
http://www.centeringprayer.com/lectio_divina.html
http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-what-how-why-of-prayer/praying-with-scripture

Anna

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It is for freedom that Christ set us free

After a long and relaxing summer holiday we are back to learning what life can be for us at the Lunesdale Community. We are still just our family of four, but butterflies flutter in my stomach when I think of the everyday adventure of life ahead this autumn and winter. I have more time to invest in this community project because I’ve reduced my working hours, Andy has big ideas about the direction his work should take in the future and the children are still finding their way in the complicated world of school, hobbies and friendships. We carry on praying together and looking after the house. Everything is well set up for a larger residential community, and we really hope that some people would move in with us soon.

On holiday I read a bit on Anthony de Mello’s thoughts in his book of meditations, The Way to Love. They touched on what has been welling up in me during the process of a change of life while setting up the Lunesdale Community.

There is a kind of freedom which enables us to see what is true and what is ultimately important. In the Bible, the psalmist writes (119:45) about the freedom which we can find when we trust and hope in God. This freedom is the opposite of slavery to lies, and when we search for wisdom we learn to use our freedom well.

What is often stopping people from breaking free from situations that enslave them or bind them is the need to conform. This comes into housing, education, careers, children’s upbringing, consumption habits and many lifestyle choices including transport. It is as if only a few options which we are fed from birth are acceptable. We are told what is the minimum we must have to be happy or to be seen as successful, or even sane.
We are fed an image, and then we struggle to keep it and live up to it.

This is a lie on the level of the society, to keep the status quo in politics and in economic growth. In this harsh world of “Have”, inequality in its many forms must be maintained. The lie can be perpetuated in the culture which glorifies individualism and instant gratification. Behind individualism, I see a lot of fear. What if I someday become dependent on others? What will people think if I can’t manage without the help of others? What if I have to let someone close and compromise? What if I can’t have my own way? What if I have to give up some of the benefits I’ve managed to secure for myself? And then softly, somewhere deep inside, the question we want to silence: What if this is all there is? What a waste of a lifetime it would be to not see for real and chase after the wrong things.

Many people become blind or at least numb to the unchanging and uncompromising values of the Kingdom of God. These are the eternal things of God, such as justice, peace and love. But there are also a growing number of people who are reacting against the indifference through grass-roots organisations. For example, the City of Sanctuary movement is organising an event with asylum seekers at the Cohousing in Halton this Saturday, which I’m looking forward to attending.

I want to speak for an alternative, counter-cultural way of life. Yes, a whole way of life. This is a changing of the heart, searching for God’s wisdom, bringing about change through personal example and by joining efforts with others and making choices whenever possible to not enslave others. I sincerely hope that the Lunesdale Community will grow to be a place where all this is possible. If you are interested, do contact us, contribute to the blog or plan a visit! We’d love to hear from you.

Anna

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Birgitta’s Taizé blog

Some reflections from the first half of Holy Week in Taizé, by Birgitta (12).

Saturday 19th March, on the ferry.
Hello! Or maybe I should say bonjour? Anyway, we are all very tired and looking forward to being able to sleep on the coach. This morning we got up at 6:00 and got into a taxi which took us to the train station in Lancaster. Then we got a train to Manchester. From there, we got the coach to Dover (picking people up on the way) and are now on the ferry. We will hopefully arrive in Taize around 6:30 in English time.

In Taize, I want to meet new people and make new friends from different countries. I think that this is my ninth time in Taize And I always love to do everything. I love the breakfast, (a roll with chocolate sticks) I love the group sessions, I love Olinda and the theatre and one thing which is very important is the prayers three times a day. I can’t wait to get there!

Sunday 20th March, in Taize(!)
We have arrived! We got here at 8 am and have eaten breakfast and been down to the source for the Palm Sunday procession. We walked up to the church singing Taize songs and there we stated the prayer. Then we had a bit of free time as there is no programme on a Sunday. We ate lunch, then went to Oyak, the Exposition shop and the old village church. We were welcomed in Olinda, which is the family area, and got our room. It is quite nice: it’s warm and has a carpeted floor. My favourite thing about it is the large window sill which I have covered with a blanket so I can use it as a seat and look out.

Monday 21st March, in evening prayer
The bells are ringing so I have only a few minutes left until the prayer starts. This morning I woke up and we went to morning prayer. We left Aidan as he was still asleep. We were supposed to be helping to distribute the breakfast but there were too many helpers already. After breakfast we went to the tent to be told our groups and the adults had a Bible introduction. While they were still in the tent we left to our different age groups. We made name tags and then played lots of fun games to get to know each other. I am the only person who lives in England although some more people may come during the week. The prayer is starting now so I will write again tomorrow.

Tuesday 22nd March, in evening prayer
I missed morning prayer today as I was tired. We were in our groups again today but seven more people had arrived since yesterday so we played another ‘name game’. After lunch we went for a walk and passed by the church in Ameugny but there was scaffolding at the front and someone was doing some work. At 4:30 we had a theatre session about Peter and the disciples after Jesus had died.

Wednesday 23rd March, in the Barn
In my group this morning we left Olinda and walked to Taize. My group’s name is Catapult. We were going to go to the Source but we had play some games before we could go down as the gate was still locked. Later on, at Oyak, I had a vanilla ice cream.

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