Friday, June 09, 2006

The Monastery Revisted

On Wednesday night we watched The Monastery Revisited on BBC2. The Monastery was a fascinating series, in which five ‘modern’ men spent forty days and nights living with the Benedictine community at Worth Abbey, on a spiritual journey to discover whether ancient Christian practice had any relevance today. A year and a half on, the men returned for a weekend retreat over the feast of Epiphany, and to answer the Abbot’s question, “What star have you been following since you left?”

Jonny Baker and Mark Fletcher have already posted some good reflections, here (Jonny) and here (Mark). I’d add that it was very interesting to hear the Abbot speak of just how many people who had watched the series got in touch with the monks to say that it had spurred them on to discover or rekindle a Christian faith journey for themselves: the impact went far wider than the five men who actually lived with the monks for that season. I wonder how many of them had similar experiences to Tony when they tried to find a local faith community to belong to…
…Two defining characteristics of the community at Worth Abbey that shone through for me were their genuine loving acceptance into their midst of people who held different views on life; and the way in which they did not presume to tell the men what they should believe but trusted that God would meet them where they were and address the deepest desires of their hearts, drawing them to him in the process. These are no postmodern relativists, but faithful adherents to an ancient and orthodox expression of Christianity. For, at the end of the day, each person must discover – must be discovered by – Truth for themselves. Our role is not to guard the Truth (as if Jesus needs, or has asked, me to defend him from his persecutors); but to be channels of Love, so that, in experiencing the love of God, people might come to experience the truth of his being. I wonder what difference adopting such an approach to life and mission would make to the Tony’s in our neighbourhood.

Next week sees the start of The Convent, in which four ‘modern’ women will go on a similar journey of discovery. I think it will be good to see the female side; and then, please God, an end to it: let this not be the latest Reality TV dragon that apparently cannot be slain!

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