Our 19th Annual Celtic retreat is only 2 weeks away. This is my favourite event of the year and I have been busy putting together the program for this exciting event. So I thought that over the next few days I would give a sneak preview of some of the prayers and framework for the retreat.
The theme this year is Building Community and below is the introductory explanation we are using. Some of what I share here you may have seen before but this is such an important but neglected topic that I don’t think any of us will suffer from having it reinforced. Building community is not always easy – we have our disagreements, our misunderstandings and our conflicts. Communities don’t always survive and we can all point our fingers at those who have tried to build intentional communities but failed.
Unless we believe that community is important we will not even try to build God’s worldwide community and the foundations we build on will be like sand – easily washed away.
Early Christians believed that God comes to us in community. They reasoned that as the essential nature of God is love and because it is impossible to practice love in isolation, God the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit must model perfect community. Celtic Christians too held a deep love for the Trinity and were very comfortable with a God whose nature was portrayed as a companionable relationship between members of a community. They felt that it was impossible to reflect God’s image as isolated individuals and were very aware that coming into God’s presence signified being drawn into community not just with the Trinity but with the entire human family and even with God’s creation. They believed that every family, clan and tribe reflected the Trinity which intensifying their commitment to building community.
The strongly monastic character of the Celtic church produced a community minded ministry model which we hope to replicate in the Mustard Seed village on Camano Island. To become a disciple meant building communities of mutual love and care with sisters and brothers in God’s worldwide family. “Ministry…was undertaken by teams of men and women, ordained and lay, who lived together in community and operated from a common central base from which they went out among the people preaching, teaching, baptizing, administering the sacraments, caring for the sick and burying the dead.”
Alone we are a very poor reflection of God. As Richard Twiss expresses it: Every day our lives are painted in colour, in light, and in mystery. We walk in a world of day and night, wind and rain, heat and warmth. We share this planet with myriad species of living thing. We dwell with women and men of many languages, cultures, appearances and nations. This is a gift of God, and it is in this diversity we get a glimpse of God.
God comes to us in the diversity of many ethnicities, in rich and poor, young and old, sick, lonely, disabled, marginalized homeless and abandoned. It is only as we build communities of unity, love and mutual concern and enter the life journeys of brothers and sisters from around the world that we can hope to truly reflect the image of our loving God. We need to learn to accept and embrace others as persons made in the image of God not looking for where we think that image is damaged and scarred but rather for where it shines through as the person God intended them to be. We must learn to be vulnerable and share our own pains, struggles and heartaches with others. Then we must allow them to reach into our lives and lead us too into the freedom of God’s shalom world. We are called to show God’s love by sharing our talents and resources to enable others to enter into the freedoms of Christ’s kingdom.