Friday 29 August 2014
Living together in Orthodox Community?
But it's not as easy as buying a plot of land and erecting some cabins. What even would it mean to develop an Orthodox community? Why might such an idea have a part to play in the wider landscape of Orthodox experience and witness in the UK and elsewhere?
Certainly in the fractured and individualistic world we find ourselves required to live in there is often a nagging sense that we are missing the experience of the Church as a faithful family. The Christian life is not lived only in the Church building and in Church services, and the experience of Christian community must mean more than going bowling and having a pizza with friends once a week.
We read about the life of the early Church in Acts and find..
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:44-47
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. Acts 4:32
Now community living might not mean living in a commune. But many of us have a sense that it means more and requires more of us than the experience of the Orthodox Faith which we have at present.
I am convinced that this desire for community has the potential to stand as a witness to an important aspect of our Orthodox life which is sometimes obscured living in the materialistic West where even devout Christians can be caught up in the same pressure to succeed on this fallen world's terms. If we are able to explore and develop means of living out Orthodox community in a variety of contexts and locations then this might well be an important part of our mission in the 21st century.
Rather than assume that the issues around this idea of Orthodox community are clear cut, I am sure that what is required is a detailed and comprehensive study both of the theological and spiritual character and nature of Orthodox community, and also of the many practical aspects which must be considered.
The theological and spiritual questions include, but are not limited to: What is community? On what does community depend? What is the purpose of community? How has community been practiced by Christians in the past? What does Orthodox community mean? How does Orthodox community relate to the mission and life of the wider Church?
The practical questions include, but are not limited to: What is the difference between a rural and urban community? What activities can a community be engaged in? What are the implications of planning regulations in various places? How can someone join a community? What happens when things go wrong?
These questions hardly scratch the surface of what must be considered. There is a great deal of study and research required even to develop a provisional blueprint for Orthodox community in the UK and elsewhere.
Here is what I would like to do. I would like to spend some months, many months, engaged in a study of intentional community, that is communities which come together for a purpose, so that I can produce a significant study of the possibilities of forming Orthodox communities in different Western countries, and with different objectives, but which have in common a life-giving expression of Orthodox life lived together with others. This study will be a detailed blueprint and will be the fruit of dialogue with many other Orthodox who share this sense that the development of Orthodox community might be part of our witness in these times. It will be a plan for beginning to consider what might be accomplished as God wills.
If you wish to be kept informed of developments in this study, and participate in online discussion in a private forum, then please send your email address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will ensure that you are informed of how to access whatever community interest platform is organised.