Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monasticism and the Intensity of Experience

Wendy, who keeps the delightful Bookgirl blog, wrote the following comment on an earlier post.  It seemed important enough to reprint it here and to ponder a bit:

"When thinking about making church more like VBS or camp--something I, too, think about--I wonder how much of the VBS/Camp experience is about the 5-days-in-a-row aspect? We once did VBS once a week for 5 weeks and it did not seem nearly as powerful. I wonder if there is any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) that looks at this?"

I wish I could say that I've investigated thoroughly, but I haven't.  Still, it's an interesting idea.

I had a discussion with a college friend a few months ago, a discussion where we pondered whether or not your typical suburban church could replicate what we experienced in our old Lutheran Student Movement days back in the 1980's.  He says it can't be done.  I want so badly to prove him wrong.

I've wondered if close proximity helps to make a group more solid.  Wendy suggests that we could replicate that feeling of proximity by meeting more often.  Of course, I know that people might balk--we'll do any number of extra meetings if there's an end in sight.

And then the larger issue:  how could we make church the kind of event that's so wonderful that we'd come to church regardless of whether or not we met once a week or every day?

Again, I don't have the answers, and I suspect they'd be different, depending on whom we asked.  For me, I'd like more social justice projects.  I'd like more exploration of creativity.  I'm not as interested in the typical Sunday morning service multiple times through the week, which may say something about the typical morning service.  There are parts that I love, of course. 

I find myself thinking about Mepkin Abbey too, since I had to go to their website to alter reservations.  I love the idea of living in a faith community, which would make it so much easier to meet daily or several times a week.  I love the idea of work and worship being part of the same space. 

Monasticim's largest appeal to me is the idea that one would be living a fully integrated life, with all actions leading to the same end point.  I have this idealized vision that monks don't get pulled away by worldly concerns, unlike me, who often finds that the demands of work compete with the needs of family/friends, which aren't always in sync with the needs of my various faith communities.

But I suspect that we're all wrestling with a variation of that issue.  I suspect that if I sat down with a monk, the monk would say, "Hey, I'm often thinking about what to cook for the community for lunch or I'm worried about the fungus that seems to be taking over our mushrooms or I'm wondering how we'll care for our elderly members with so few new men coming on board."  

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