i have been thinking a lot about community recently. it's partly because cms is exploring a shift to being a community at the core of what we are, and it's also because i am helping to shape the thinking and development of a residential mission community in a large house in oxford on the iffley road. as part of that gill did lots of research gleaning wisdom from how other communities both residential and dispersed funtion and what they suggested were important considerations. i am also very interested in the widespread way in which monastic ways of living out the christian faith are resurgent especially in the way they afford thinking about ethos and community life.
well through the post yesterday came the two latest encounters on the edge booklets - 37 and 38 and they are on community. encounters on the edge is a wonderful little series of 30 page booklets that explore an aspect of the newness in mission and church in the changing world we live in. these two books together are a gem. they are penned by clare dalpra. i don't know if she has written others in the series - most of the ones i have read before have been written by george lings. but i hope there are many more. there is no point just reading one - they go together.
they are based on a series of interviews with people such as roy searle of the northumbria community (whose wisdom i have found helpful before) and draw on some wonderful insights from books. the writing is a blend of practical wisdom and refreshing honesty. i was genuinely completely surprised by the books depth especially as they are so thin. the themes are things such as checking expectations, the importance of values/ethos, handling conflict, welcoming diversity, letting go of control and the need to fix things/people, facing your monsters, developing sustainable spirituality, leadership and humility. clare says that the second book was difficult to write but the sections on letting go control and leadership are simply brilliant. she paints a picture of something that i aspire to both personally and in any community i am part of, but that is honest and humble. there is so much unhealthy stuff around on leadership that i found this a refreshing change. there are lots of sentences that i want to go back to and chew over. jean vanier, scott peck and bonhoeffer are key influences - the books listed at the back are a very neat booklist on community.
the hunch behind the writing of this double issue is that community is increasingly significant in the new forms of church life emerging and that there is lots of wisdom to be gleaned by these younger communities from those intentional communities who have walked this road before. i hope lots of newer communities pass these books around. i'm going to...