Here it is–my last day at Holy Wisdom Monastery and with the Benedictine Women of Madison. This morning we had our last morning walk between Oak House (where us volunteers are housed) to the monastery, admiring the black eye susans and the cup flowers along the way. Everything, from our last centering prayer and our last morning prayer times, to floating the rubber duckies in the baptismal font, seemed a little surreal since it felt as if we would be doing the same thing once again tomorrow.
The last few days have been filled with spreading prairie seed around the grounds, landscaping around the retreat houses, weeding the garden, and harvesting vegtables. And between our work, our prayers, our community meals, and the bonfire last night, we all talked about new ways that Christianity is growing in this new century. Community is starting to become where the power and the authority now lies, and more and more people are starting to look for ways to simplify their lives, grow their own food for the community, and work for others rather than for themselves. While many of these values were popular in the 60s and 70s, they are starting to develop a communal and social spin that is more of our grandparents’ generation rather than our parents’ generation
But there is a shift taking place. As Sister Lynne, the director of our volunteer program noted, everything now feels up in the air and we are still looking to see how everything will land. And while the organization of churches, communities, and values start to swirl, the Benedictine prayers will, still, continue–centering prayer, morning prayer, noon prayer, evening prayer, centering prayer, compline–and repeat.
Many scholars note that Judaism and Christianity undergo major reformations every 500 years that radically alter the way power and authority are distributed. The first shift for the Christian Church, in the 500s and 600s, was when Benedict lived and when western monasticism took root. Now, as we are undergoing our next 500 year shift in the 21st century, it is the monastic rhythm that can keep us centered as everything alters and changes to better respond to how people are seeking God in the world. There is no one with more history of helping people adjust to communal life than St. Benedict, so churches of all denominations are starting to turn to his guidance once again.
And Benedictine history can give us real roots. It is exciting to see how new ideas and movements are starting to buzz in faith communities, but even the new buzzing can cause some anxiety with the prospect of change. If anything, the regularity of prayer, of spiritual discipline, can keep us grounded and rooted so that we don’t lose sight of the real center as everything starts to grow.
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To read all three of Sara’s posts about her experience as a returning Volunteer in Community, go to Spiraling In and Out.