Over the past few months I have been gradually clearing a house which has belonged to my family for 49 years. This has required many hours of physically demanding work - lifting boxes, sorting contents, distributing much loved items to family members and transporting box after box of belongings to the charity shops and furniture recycling places of Shropshire and Wales. One of the great blessings has been the joy of renewing my acquaintance with toys and books and many photographs - memories of the families and communities with whom we have shared our lives. This activity has been physically challenging and time consuming but also emotionally demanding as we have remembered many years of happy family holidays, visits of family and friends and many special events.
As children of God we are made for relationship and community and it is always good to be reminded of that and to celebrate it, even when it can feel as though we are being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of emotion. I don’t mean this in some sort of ‘hearts and flowers’ way - all of us know that good and healthy relationships and communities, that enable human flourishing, are not easily achieved and take constant attention and commitment, love, patience, resilience, forgiveness and not a little persistence and endurance.
The Rule of St Benedict, which is a particular treasure of my spiritual life, sheds a clear and demanding light on community and relationships.
First, the rule is clear: love costs. It costs the little daily things- serving meals, washing clothes, providing for the needs of others, dealing with each other with generosity and respect.
Second, love makes demands:
- It demands that we use our gifts for our own community .
- It demands that we make relationships a priority.
- It demands that we make community for others.
- It demands generous hospitality of the heart and the hearth.
- It demands that we share of ourselves: our gifts, our thoughts, our time, our resources, with others.
- Most of all it demands that we allow, enable and encourage the people in our lives to be who they are called to be and to step into God’s call on their lives.
The Benedictine spirituality of community is based on life with others
under God, supporting, empowering and learning from one another. May we build such communities and make a place of welcome for all who still need to hear and to know that they too have a place in God’s story and a home in God’s heart.
Bishop of Shrewsbury