We are a monastery without walls, a group of individuals committed to a rule of life and a vibrant spiritual community. The Urban Abbey is located in Arlington, Virginia at St. George's Episcopal Church.
Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: A reminder -- Saint George's will hold a Taizé worship service on Monday, November 1, at 7:30 PM. This contemplative service will last around 45 minutes, and will include prayer, meditative singing, lighting of candles, and silence for meditation. This continues our series of First Mondays Taizé worship services.
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"
Today is a busy day and as I was about to run out of the house one of my meditation's reminded me I can pray the "Jesus Prayer". Followed perhaps by saying it again later today at some time when life slowed down a little, say at a traffic light or when waiting in line.
Then I remembered:
"Father, Thank You"
I often say this prayer when I something is going on and I don't know what to say, perhaps when the day all of a sudden gets very difficult. I can pause, inhale saying "Father" (or "God" or "Jesus") and exhale saying "Thank You". A complete prayer - Acknowledging God streaming into me as the air enters my lungs, expressing my thanks for God's work in my life as I exhale...
Penny & I are in Texas visiting her mom who has Alzheimer’s. One of the spiritual disciplines I have is to listen to the “Speaking of Faith” [now called “Being] podcasts distributed through NPR. This morning as I was exercising, I was listening to the most recent podcast of an interview with Richard Mouw on “Restoring Political Civility”. This really spoke to me today not just in the narrow confines of the political arena, but in my life as a Christian and Urban Abbey member.
Richard’s phrase “civil incivility” in my mind really boils down to a call for listening…deep listening. I certainly find that in the charged issues that confront me – same sex marriage, racial hatred, terrorist attacks on the innocent – it is so easy to demonize all those on the other side of those issues. As I look at the country’s current political arena, I see a growing polarization between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. If I take all these issues, I find that I have a tendency toward incivility – holding my beliefs so strongly that I can’t listen to another point of view.
I, and I believe, we the Urban Abbey Community are called to model what Richard would call a more civil approach to those with differing opinions. As a community we need to find ways to navigate disagreement while modeling gentleness and civility. Taking the time to really listen to another is one of the answers for me. When we listen and hear what another is saying we can find areas of common ground that can allow us to move forward.
I invite you to download the interview at the following url: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2010/restoring-civility/ I also ask you to share your thoughts with the community on how we can be models of healing in our larger Church and Christian community.
Dear Abbey Members and Friends: I think the following is a wonderful thanksgiving prayer for the rescue of the miners. I want to share it with you. Shalom, George ___________________________
Grace and Peace to you.
God of grace, I praise you! Let me never take you for granted! My very being is your doing, and my life is a testimony to you. For I was buried deep and you brought me up. I was in darkness and you gave me light. I was in a narrow place and you have brought me out to a spacious and open-armed land, to people who love me.
Cut off, I thought I was alone, but you were with me: you accompanied me in my helplessness; you sat with me in my solitude. In the dark, I could not see anyone to rescue me. But there were those who prayed for me, who labored for my well-being.
How soon will I forget that you are my life? How quiet will I be about your grace? How afraid will I be of the dark, how despairing in my difficulties?
Holy One, you are my gladness; you are my confidence. In my tightest spots I will trust you, and count on your unfailing grace. When most alone I will rely on you, and your loving presence. O God of Presence, you are my life. I thank you with all of my living.
Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve _________________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net
As this week passes and it is my turn to reflect on our community again, I can’t help but think of the passing of one of our members, Nancy McCracken. I am sure there were several members of our community who knew her better than me and can share many stories, both funny and rich that reflect the great gift she was to not only St. Georges’ but also Arlington as a whole. When I think of Nancy the word ‘service’ comes to mind. I found her always willing to do what was asked. I remember her in the early days of the Abbey really struggling with the idea of being contemplative. We had more than one discussion about it. I don’t know that she ever was comfortable with the silence, and truth be told she often fell asleep during the quiet times in the Abbey life. Although I don’t believe she ever grew comfortable with the “contemplative approach” to spirituality, she was in fact a deeply spiritual person in her practical, service oriented way. She definitely wanted to be a member of our budding spiritual community. It was “community” that was the life-blood of her relationship to God. In the book Community and Growth, Jean Vanier founder of L’Arche Communities, describes a variety of gifts that people bring to a community. This one described Nancy for me.
"The gift of availability Availability for service is one of the most marvelous gifts that we can find in community. People who have this gift trust those in authority and the community itself and take on whatever is asked of them. …. But it is marvelous for a community to have among its members people with this child-like spirit, who are ready to take on whatever is asked of them. They have confidence that it would not be asked if they were not capable of doing it, by the grace of the spirit. The gift of availability can be transmitted from one person to another, like a fire of love. It brings a community to life.”
I would love to hear from the Abbey members that knew her well. Please share with us how she touched your life or St. George’s. Let's use this blog as means to honor her presence and her passing in our community.
As I have shared before, I regularly follow Brother Jerome Leo's reflections upon the portion of the Rule of Benedict. Yesterday the appointed portion from the Rule was about "silence" and humility. I am not in a position to keep silent during my day, though more humility is likely a great idea. The reflection, however contained this gem:
"All too often we speak only to remind the universe around us, which has carelessly forgotten for a second that we are its center, of a whole bevy of falsehoods: I am the cutest, smartest, or wittiest, I have the solution to all of this. What folly on the part of the entire cosmos to forget our importance! Better speak to clear the matter up..."
Now, here is something I can latch on to! I love to talk about my favorite subject: Me! Luckily I have two friends at work blessed with the same trait - it is wonderful how often we remind each other of our "humility" by saying something along the lines of "that was a great story, but it couldn't have been true, only I can do something that wonderful" (or horrible or stupid or forgetful). Great to have a wonderful group of friends, but even better to be reminded that next time I can simply listen and care.
If you wish, here is the whole entry, which also has another wonderful nugget attributed to one of the Desert Fathers about how monks spend the day...
February 6, June 7, October 7 Chapter 7: On Humility
The ninth degree of humility is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence, not speaking until he is questioned. For the Scripture shows that "in much speaking there is no escape from sin" (Prov. 10:19) and that "the talkative man is not stable on the earth" (Ps. 139:12).
OK, if you are a parent, you cannot speak to your children only when they question you. The therapy bills in later years would be astronomical. There are many situations in a Benedictine life lived in the world, among non-monastics, where this has to be altered, but its kernel of truth must be discovered and maintained.
WHY do we talk needlessly? Quite often it is nothing more than a trick to change the reality around us. We are bored, or we feel we are not getting enough attention or we think the mood too heavy, so we speak to change whatever annoys us at the moment. I should know. I am infamous for creating my own entertainment when things seem dull to me. That's not always a great idea...
Some tough moments, some difficult stuff are meant to be endured. They are part of our necessary learning and growth. Ever notice how we assess a child's maturity by its ability to be quiet and non- fidgety in surroundings (like Church!) that do not spoon feed its attention span? Well, the same is true of us at every stage. We do ourselves harm if we defuse every single tense moment with a word or two. We cheat ourselves.
All too often we speak only to remind the universe around us, which has carelessly forgotten for a second that we are its center, of a whole bevy of falsehoods: I am the cutest, smartest, or wittiest, I have the solution to all of this. What folly on the part of the entire cosmos to forget our importance! Better speak to clear the matter up...
Those who know me are thinking: "HE wrote THIS?!?" Yes, alas, I am guilty of all I wrote. Three times a year the Holy Rule reminds me of that and each time I am aware that I need to work on it. Thanks be to God, the Rule IS read three times a year: usually by the time the next reading comes up, my interest has flagged and I have to start over. As for the part about the talkative not being "stable on the earth," well, there have been times in the last 17 years when God had to nail my feet to the floor to keep me faithful and I am not dead yet... I have not always been His most willing pupil, but oh, is He ever patient! And infinitely merciful!
But, as one Desert Father said, that's what we do all day in monasteries: "We fall down and we get up."
Love and prayers, Jerome, OSB http://www.stmarysmonastery.org Petersham, MA
I am battered. I am tired. Something in me deep is weary. Hold me.
I'm tired of swinging this oar against the ceaseless waves against these strong arms that pound me drown me pushing against what pushes against keeping up defending getting everything done.— Don't make me have to survive. Relieve me.
Take this uniform, this costume, this suit of adequacy. Take it away. Take this life, another's invention, this skin I hardly fit into. Strip me of all that, till there is only myself, naked and helpless and beloved lying in your hand.
Let me be you, asleep in the boat; let the storm go on on its own.
In the back of the boat, hold me, rocking, rocking, maybe even sing a little. Let me lie here and listen.
Myself, I'll lie here and listen.
Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve _____________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net
This coming Monday, October 4, the feast day of St. Francis, patron of animals and creation, at 7:30 PM, St. George's is initiating the first of a three-part program on the first Mondays of October, November, and December with a Taize service. The November service will commemorate All Saints Day; the December service, St. Nicholas. If you can, please plan to attend this 45 minute service.
If you have attended any of St. George's occasional Taize services in recent years, you know this will be a beautiful and deeply moving experience. If you haven't attended a Taize service in the past, come to experience this beautiful expression of worship.
I hope you have noted the banner and lawn signs announcing the service.
I want especially to thank our Director of Music, Ben Keseley who has done so much -- gone the extra mile and then some -- to bring us an exceptionally beautiful service. Our presence will be a wonderful expression of the support of our Worship Committee for bringing to our church family a breadth of worship opportunities.
Welcome to the Urban Abbey Blog. We are a community of individuals in northern Virginia in the United States committed to following a Benedictine-inspired Rule of Life.
We are not a residential community. Abbey members seek to live out their vows in the everyday aspects of their lives. Thus, we consider ourselves to be a monastery without walls.
Listening Groups are a central feature of our Abbey community. In these contemplative prayer groups we practice a form of group spiritual direction and listen to God for each other.
While we are associated with St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, membership in the Abbey is open to anyone willing to commit to our Rule of Life. Please check our website if you are interested in learning more about the Urban Abbey or our programs.
Our Rule of Life
All Abbey members commit to a Rule of Life. Our Rule is:
With the intention of drawing closer to God, I will with God’s help:
* Pray daily, guided by the Book of Common Prayer or another Christian format, and worship regularly in community; * Study scripture, and pursue a specifically selected spiritual formation activity annually; * Serve others, share the tasks of the Urban Abbey Community, and be mindful of God in my daily work; and * Show fellowship with a welcoming heart, seeking Christ in everyone I meet, offering comfort and celebration.