The Chapter House

Today this space is used as a place to gather in small groups for worship and discussion, planning meetings, music practices etc. The day to day life of the Iona Community and what it stands for is portrayed on display boards. Visitors are left in no doubt of the community’s vision to ‘seek new ways of living the Gospel in today’s world’, bringing together work and worship, prayer and politics, the sacred and the secular. The members are committed to a Common Rule of daily prayer and Bible study, sharing and accounting for the use of time and money, regular meetings and action for justice and peace.

From 1203, when the ancient monastery became a Benedictine Abbey, this room was the place where the Brothers met each day to listen to a chapter being read from the Rule of St. Benedict which sets out the principles and practicalities of what it means to be a Brother in that community. It outlines a life balance of prayer, study, work, eating and sleeping. Archbishop Rowan Williams has described the influence of The Rule on the whole course of civilisation as being vast. ‘It is lucid, moderate, pithy and realistic, pervaded by a simple incarnational theology: a work, in fact of rare genius.’

The value of such ‘Rules of Life’ is something that we are beginning to rediscover in our generation. Ian Bradley in his radical book Colonies of Heaven: Celtic Models for Today’s Church asks: ‘Could it be that in the post modern, pick-and-choose spiritual supermarket we now inhabit, people are actually craving commitment, discipline and obedience? ……. Maybe in our dumbed down and easy going culture Christians should be both proclaiming and living out the essentially counter-culture message of commitment and discipline which is so clearly found in the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon monasticism.’

The growth of New Monasticism would seem to bear that out. Pete Greig and Andy Freeman tell the story in Punk Monk of the development of communities of ‘Christ-centred, mission-minded prayer’ that embrace many of the traditional spiritual disciplines. Its Rule of Life is focussed on the creation of a Boiler Room where prayer can be offered 24-7. Such centres of Christian community can now be found all over the world.

What a Rule of Life can do is offer a rationale for turning ideas into action. And how we need to move from inspired words to intentional deeds if the Church is to be effective in making a Kingdom kind of impact in our society! Bono is known to have agreed to put his weight behind the Jubilee Campaign because he found there a strategic outworking for his passionate idealism. ‘Nothing is worse’ he says, ‘than a bleeding heart without a plan.’

Jesus was clearly intentional about the way he carried out the mission God had given him, and with his last breath he was able to declare, “It is accomplished!” (John 19; 30)

It is a central goal for us at Christ Church Downend to be intentional about discipleship, and to plan practical ways of engaging passions and gifts to make a difference in the community and wider world. Some of the best ‘soil’ for this way of living to take root is of course in a Homegroup, where there is a sense of mutual support, a sharing of experience and the opportunity to work together for a purpose impossible to achieve as an individual.

Possible Practices

  1. Consider if there are any Possible Practices that would form the basis of a simple and sustainable Rule of Life that you could commit to for 6 months. Choose 3 and stick with them so that they become ‘habits of holiness’.
  2. What idea is buried deep within your spirit that you believe God wants to become a reality? Share it with someone you trust and start to make plans that might lead to that idea being turned into an action that will have a ‘Kingdom Impact’.
  3. If you are not part of a Homegroup, explore the possibility of belonging to one where you know one or two people who are already members. If you are in a Homegroup, think about who might value being part of your group, and pray for them each day until there is an appropriate opportunity to invite them.