today's guardian has a really interesting article by tobias jones, author of utopian dreams, his reflections on visiting and staying with various communities. the article is called why i'm setting up a woodland commune. he has been so inspired by the pilsdon monastic community in devon that he is buying a woodland as a place of community for those struggling to cope with life. it's a brave and honest piece. i instantly like the guy though i've never met him (he did speak at greenbelt a couple of years back i think). in all the talk around new monasticism, hospitality that is able to welcome those struggling and provide a place to belong has surely got to be at the heart of it? i have recently felt quite challenged by this partly through a friend who has taken a teenager into her family life with a lot of risk attached. and she commented to me that it is the only way people struggling will find a way forward...
cms has been exploring this kind of thing over the last few years, changing the overall structure to community, and investing in and kick starting a community house in iffley, oxford. that's been going just over a year now and is developing gently through teasing out what it means to live in community. it's not my place to reflect on it but at some point the community can and will no doubt reflect more. but my overall impression is that it's got a real authentic life about it already. there is a piece in the last yes magazine which is all focused on the theme of mission community written by one of the members. since starting that venture we seem to be hearing of and connecting with more people either on a similar journey or wanting to undertake a similar venture. i suspect they will network together informally and share learning on the way. tom sine (also in the last yes magazine) was advocating new economic models (as he has done for decades!) as so many people seem to live in isolation in single units and it could free up cash to live with less pressure or resource good things and help people connect with fellow human beings rather than live in isolated pods.
i suspect many of us are so attached to our own space that it would be a challenging leap but i warm to it... though i have no doubt it would be challenging. my mum has been a shining example to me in this regard in her own quiet way, opening up her home to those struggling - she still does and i have no doubt always will. as kids, people were in and out of the house and our lives and sometimes things would literally go bump in the night but i think it was good for us. tobias jones says that one of the reasons they are doing it is for their children as counter to the common notion of defending and protecting them he thinks the children he has met in this sort of environment embody humanity, gentility, empathy and maturity in astonishing ways. being exposed to suffering and learning the place of acceptance as the environment in which people can slowly become themselves is surely good for children? and children are generally very healing in their acceptance unconditionally of people, far more than us grown ups!
jones also surprised me with this statement though i don't know why i was surprised (co-incidentally i happened to read the sermon on the mount while i was eating my breakfast today so it was a nice connection)
most of all we're taking our leap in the dark because we've belatedly realised that the sermon on the mount might actually be a manifesto for life, rather than a few nice ideals to take out for a spin on a Sunday morning. We've come to believe in the survival of the weakest, not just the fittest. William Vanstone once came out with the great line that the Church is like a swimming pool: all the noise is at the shallow end. We felt called to the deep end, to the place where it's more quiet, more dangerous maybe, more radical.
anyone else for the deep end?