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Pastoral Letter, trinity 2016

 

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
(John 16: 12-13)

 

Dear friends,

 

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Trinity which recognizes the living, relational, dynamic quality of the divine life. The story of God with us is a still unfolding story. This means that our faith is not a static deposit of truths to be possessed, but an adventure of listening and responding in service of a future still being realized in and among us. As John puts it elsewhere, ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now’, and although we are in the process of being transformed into God’s likeness, ‘what we will be has not yet been revealed’ (1 John 3:2).

 

This Trinitarian dynamic of faith is wonderfully exciting and enlivening, for if we’re caught up in a still unfolding story there’s always room for us to grow in understanding and in our capacity to receive. There’s always need for us to be open to where we are being led now. So this seems an opportune time to sharewith you something that seems to be emerging in the life of our community, as part of our unfolding story with God. It’s something that’s been part of my sense of call for a while now, something that the Benedictus Council has been speaking about, and it feels time to share it with all of you and invite your participation in listening to how the Spirit might be leading us.

 

Nicodemus Centre

 

I have a vision about a home for Benedictus – a community house, if you like. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about getting our own church or worship space. I have no sense of needing to move from the space at Holy Covenant for our weekly service. But I do have a vision, which I know others share, for a place where we might gather at other times. A place where Kaleidoscope – our contemplative children’s afternoons could be held and where our young adults’ discernment group might meet. A place where there might be daily meditation offered after work – for anyone who wants to drop in. A place which offers a quiet space to spend some time during the day, or the possibility of a cuppa and chat over the kitchen table, or a community garden to help create.

 

John Main said that one of the paradoxical features of the practice of silent meditation is that it creates community. Meditation draws us beyond the masks and defences we develop to protect our vulnerability, and opens us to the possibility of genuine relationship and sharing of life. This means that one of the gifts a contemplative community can offer is non-anxious hospitality.

 

This seems important and counter-cultural in a context where many experience loneliness and isolation, while others struggle with frenetic busy-ness and lack of space simply to be. I imagine a place which offers a ministry of presence, and a tangible expression of the friendship of Trinitarian love. It would be a community space for Benedictus itself, which will support us in our contemplative practice, enable some of the programs we offer, and be somewhere to invite others to share in and be nourished by the life of our community.

 

There’s another dimension too. At the end of last year, I said that I’d been approached by a number of different people, from different walks of life, who were wanting to explore faith. The story of Nicodemus, who came inquiring of Jesus at night-time, resonates for me as I think of these people because they (like Nicodemus) are often in contexts hostile to their exploration of faith and spiritual meaning. Some are struggling to find ways of engaging these questions that seem real, relevant and not an abandonment of their integrity. They’d be uncomfortable – at least at first – to come along to a Saturday worship service, but they are hungry for a place to go for conversation and companionship on their spiritual journey.

 

Relatedly, I believe there’s a profound need for us to find ways of intelligently engaging theology and faith with our life in the world, and to participate in conversations for the common good. Sothe idea of something called the Nicodemus Centre – a place for theological inquiry, conversation and engagement has been in my mind for several years now, and it won’t seem to let me go!

 

I can imagine different things being offered. A theology and spirituality reading group. A retreat series for professionals focusing on questions of discerning vocation and sustaining integrity in systems that often feel compromised and compromising. I can imagine hosting theologically informed conversations about matters of public significance. I’m not interested in creating simply a ‘think tank’ or academic centre. There’s a necessary relationship between deepening theological reflection and the lived experience of faith – and that’s why I see the Nicodemus Centre and a house for community and prayer as part of the same vision, and part of the ministry of a thoughtful, contemplative community like ours.

 

These are beginning thoughts – places I imagine we might start – but who knows what else could unfold once a certain kind of space is created and begins to generate its own energy and life. In Latin America in the 1970s and 80s, liberation theology emerged as a powerful movement for justice in the context of oppressive political systems and gross economic inequity. Liberation theologians recognised the need, in such a context, for what they called ‘base communities’ which nourished and empowered the poor to resist injustice and become agents of mercy and truth in their difficult circumstances. Our circumstances here in Canberra aren’t, seemingly, so dire. Certainly most of us are materially much more privileged. Yet – there are facets of our economic, social and political systems that also cry out for resistance and transformation.

 

I think of the struggle of many families to stay healthy and sane amidst the demands of work and school performance, overscheduling and relationship strain; the struggle of bureaucrats to be allowed to speak truth to power, let alone be heard; and of the struggle of academics, CSIRO scientists, teachers and health professionals to fulfil their real calling in the face of budget cuts and managerial excess. I think of the corruption and dumbing down of political discourse, and the impact of this systemic untruthfulness on our capacity to respond to issues like climate change, the mass movement of people and economic reform.

 

What if together we could create a space, a kind of base community, that stood for something else? That gave people a context to deepen their listening for the call on their lives, to be nurtured and sustained by the companionship and conversation of one another, to explore how the peace and truth of God might be more fully realised in our professional, social and family lives, and so begin to transform the systems of which we are part?

 

So I wonder, do you hear something in what I’ve shared for Benedictus? Does it connect with the Spirit’s leading in your life, and with your sense of need and hope? Let me know – let’s be in conversation. Oh – and if you happen to know of a large house available for use – feel free to let me know that as well!!

 

The Bonds Between Us

 

In the life of the Trinity, the possibility of newness and growth is intrinsically connected to the love which animates and constitutes the communion of the Three-in-One. This love is about being-inrelationship.

 

Neil and I recently returned from spending two weeks on a family cruise, celebrating his Mum’s 80th birthday. Over that time, we didn’t spend all our time together but we gathered regularly for meals, for conversations in smaller groups, and we played trivia and snorkeled! What I noticed was how the simple practice of spending extended time together profoundly strengthened our sense of connection with and care for each other, and our sense of belonging to a shared enterprise.

 

We are moving into the season of winter. I know for myself that, in Canberra, it’s tempting to start hibernating in this season and it’s often difficult to muster the energy to come out in the dark and cold for an evening service or event. Yet I also know that if we are being called to a new phase of growth and commitment in our life together, then the strength of the bonds between us matters. And that is partly related to our spending time together, worshipping together and companioning one another in our journeys.

 

Many of us will be away for at least part of this time. But when you are in town, I encourage you to keep connected to the life of the community, to nourish and be nourished by our common life. There are some exciting things coming up to help us!

 

Dark Night of the Season, a solstice celebration of darkness and light, will be on Saturday 25 June and be a chance to share a mid-winter feast! That service will launch a four-week series called Mystic Winter with a focus each week on one of the mystics of our tradition. I’m also delighted to give advance notice of a special Benedictus service on July 30, Music of the Spheres, at the Radford Chapel. The wonderful acoustics of the Chapel will enable a heavenly night of music, contemplating our place in the cosmos!

 

We also now have three blogs accessible through the Benedictus website, which can keep you up to date with other aspects of the community’s activities. After each Kaleidoscope, contemplative afternoon for children, you can find out what we did in that session by clicking on the blog on the Children’s page, and looking under the heading ‘Shared Experiences 2016’. Similarly, after each Kalchaino, our discernment group for young adults, information about the theme and activities is posted. You can access that blog through the Formation page, under the Kalchaino section. And finally, I post (more or less regularly each week) to my Wednesday Retreat blog.

 

I am so grateful to each of you for your participation in Benedictus, your excitement about what is emerging among us, and your generous listening for the way ahead. May this season of Trinity call all of us deeper into the life of God, whose patient love is even now sustaining and making all things new.

 

With my love and blessing

 

Pastoral Letter, EPIPHANY 2015

 

Dear friends,


How exciting to write to you as we begin our fourth year at Benedictus and contemplate the year ahead! I sense that we are on the brink of a new phase of our life together and so, as we embark on 2015, I want to share with you some of my thoughts and hopes for the next while.


A Church for Transformation


All Christian prayer and worship is a response to, and an invitation to participate in, Jesus’ love for the world. This participation necessarily involves undergoing the dynamic of death and resurrection. This is because Christian discipleship is an invitation to be transformed into Christ-likeness, able to love with the love of God.


There is all the difference in the world between lives that are merely conformed by moral effort to the shape of Christian ‘virtue’ and those that are transformed through responsiveness to encounter with God’s living reality. The first kind of life, no matter how sincere, never gets beyond moralism and ideology.


It tends to suppress or repress all that seems shadow in us and so perpetuates alienation in ourselves and judgement of others. The second kind of life has learnt that it is the whole of us, including all that seems messy and un-holy that needs to be acknowledged and healed. I grew up in the church without learning that difference, and I suspect I am not alone. I thought the whole point was to believe certain things and make myself good over the top of whatever else was there: icing over mud.


It is the commitment to the journey of transformation that shapes everything we do at Benedictus. This adventure of reconciliation, which goes sometimes painfully by way of our wounds, is the essence of discipleship. It is the only way that we become capable of communicating God authentically to others, agents of Christ’s peace and reconciliation. For, as the Benedictine teacher of Christian meditation John Main said, 'the church can only proclaim what it is in the state of experiencing'. The church 'can only proclaim what it is'. In a similar vein, the Franciscan Richard Rohr has said, only transformed people transform others.

 

Central to our life at Benedictus is our weekly worship on Saturday evenings where we gather together to renew our commitment to Christ’s way. There are also other opportunities for us to engage in this journey of transformation that I’d like to highlight.

 

L’chaim


L’chaim (meaning ‘to life!’) is our program of formation in contemplative action. In facilitated peer groups, we reflect on aspects of our daily lives – at home, at work, in our relationships with others and ourselves. We bring our ordinary experience into a disciplined process of reflection with a supportive community, discovering signs of life and invitations to new ways of being we had not recognised before. We realise the invitation to relate to unhelpful patterns in our lives with greater freedom, deepening our integrity and responsiveness to reality.


This year, L’chaim will meet fortnightly on Thursday evenings. We are welcoming new members to our existing groups so, if you are interested in finding out more, please speak to me or Neil, and come to one of our introductory sessions on February 19 and February 26.


Spiritual Practice Group


I have been pondering for some time how we might support one another in our regular spiritual practice, recognising that it is not feasible for us to meet (in monastic spirit) for daily prayer!


I propose that we trial a Spiritual Practice Group, and wonder if some of you would like to meet once a month to talk, share reflections and experience arising from your regular practice and perhaps some shared reading?


By ‘spiritual practice’, I mean any discipline by which you seek intentionally to open yourself to God – from daily meditation to a weekly walk around the lake, from mindful eating to an intentional Sabbath. The idea isn’t to limit or evaluate what we do as our spiritual practice, but simply to provide an opportunity for sharing, deepening and companionship on our journeys. If this is something you might be interested in, please let me know. Our initial gathering will be on Saturday 21 February, at 11.00am.


Community


The early monastics recognised that community is essential for the spiritual life, with St Basil famously asking: ‘if you live alone, whose feet will you wash?’


One of the highlights of the year before last was the Community Day when we heard the stories of three of our members, and last year the Autumn Story Groups helped us to meet one another. This year we will plan to hold at least one or two community days, where we can develop friendship and connection.


I also encourage you to foster your own connections with each other, perhaps meeting for a meal or a walk, looking out for those who are new to the community or who might need a friend, looking out for occasions of celebration. In such ways, we enjoy and encourage our life together.

 

A Future for Benedictus?


I said earlier that I sense we are on the brink of a new phase of our life together. I believe this calls for continuing discernment about what is happening among us, and invites decisions about the nature of our commitment and belonging.
For myself, I have decided to commit significantly more time and energy to Benedictus this year, so as to enable the possibility of our growth and deepening sustainability. I have resigned my position in parish ministry and, together with some work in leading retreats and speaking at conferences, will be working primarily with Benedictus and relying on it for the bulk of my income.


Organisationally, we have become an incorporated non-profit association, and this has brought with it the opportunity continue to discern the most appropriate mechanism for appointing members to the Benedictus Council. I invite anyone who would like to be part of that conversation to let me know. The Benedictus Council also invites expressions of interest from any member of the community who would like to explore the opportunity to fill a vacancy that currently exists. I or any member of the Council would be delighted to talk with anyone who felt drawn to this role and would like to discern it further.


Overall, my sense is that by the end of this year we will be in a better position to respond to questions of whether and how we are being called to continue and grow. Is this what God wants for us? Is the community able to sustain a paid ministry, and how is our vocation to be a church for the blessing of the world most faithfully exercised?


Already this community has shown itself to be generous in many ways, with members freely offering expertise in legal and governance matters, gifts of music, encouragement, hospitality, wine and cheese, as well as substantial monetary donations. Generosity was one of the marks of the early church as it rejoiced in the gifts it had received from God and its freedom to grow as a new creation. I have experienced this same freedom in giving at Benedictus, as we delight in our fellowship and the new possibilities that seem to be opening up for us.


As a result of our incorporation, we now have a bank account with the Bendigo Bank into which the weekly collection will be paid. We are an entirely self-supporting community, so if you are able to make a financial contribution to enable our common life, please consider doing so, either in the form of a one-off donation (a thank offering) and/or, more importantly, a regular contribution as part of your worship of God. If you wish to set up a regular payment or make a donation, the details are below. If you have been contributing already by direct debit through Holy Covenant, could you please amend your instructions accordingly.


BSB: 633 000
Account number: 153841135


Salt and Light


Church communities are perennially tempted to focus more energy on what is happening inside the community than beyond it. But of course, as Jesus consistently taught, the whole point of church is to deepen our capacity to be salt and light, to enhance, enliven and enlighten the world around us by responding with greater integrity and vitality to God’s call on our lives.


All of us are engaged in vocations of work, caring and creativity. What excites me most about Benedictus is its enabling of the truer and fuller expression of these vocations. It is not news that our world is torn, frightened, exploited and neglected. To be agents of peace and love in our various roles – as teachers, parents, researchers, doctors, advocates, carers and leaders – is not easy in such a context. The depth of the world’s need calls for an answering depth in us. It demands our willingness to undergo transformation so that prophetic vision and the healing energy of laughter, love and hope are released for all.


My prayer for us at Benedictus this year is that we discover in ever-deepening ways this reality of transformation individually and as a community, for the love and blessing of the world.


With my love,


Sarah

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter, Christmas 2013

 

Dear friends,


What a journey we’ve enjoyed this year! There’s been the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella that Neil and I have walked, and just as significant has been the experience of journeying together that we have enjoyed as a community at Benedictus. As we approach the end of 2013, I want to mark some of the milestones we have passed and the way we have come. I want to celebrate what has grown in and among us, and invite you to explore the possibilities that are now opening before us.


A Strengthening Community


Before we left for the pilgrimage to Santiago, my biggest concern was the possible impact of our absence on Benedictus. Nine weeks is a long time in the life of a young community, and I wondered how things would go. At the same time, I had a real conviction that my being away would be good for us all, and allow space for others to find new ways of belonging and participating. I am so delighted at the strengthening of the bonds between us over this time, and so grateful to all of you whose faithfulness in attending services, arranging the centre-pieces and suppers, setting up and packing up, and playing music has been part of Benedictus continuing to flourish and grow. Many of you have indicated your willingness to continue contributing in these ways to our weekly worship service, and in the new year we’ll develop some rosters so that you can let us know your availability in the coming months.


I am deeply grateful to those who led the services over those weeks. Susanna Pain and Nikolai Blaskow, Sarah Macneil and Ian Chaplin, and Richard Browning all gave freely of themselves and their time, and nourished Benedictus through their prayerful leadership and preaching. I thank them on behalf of us all for their generous enabling of our common life and worship.


This strengthening of our community, so evident in the last part of the year, is also the fruit of some earlier developments.


Benedictus Council


In my Easter pastoral letter, I wrote of my intention to gather a group with whom to take counsel, to share leadership of Benedictus and to invite the wisdom of the community to participate in discerning our way ahead. Our Council members are Paul Hartigan, Andrew Grimm, Emily Begbie, Nikolai Blaskow, Hilary Berthon, Andrew McAlister and Neil Millar, and our meetings have been a source of enormous energy and inspiration.


In preparing for my time away, the Council understood the gifts that pilgrimage would bring and cheerfully took on responsibility for the weekly tasks associated with our services. I am so grateful to them for that support, as well as for their commitment and vision for Benedictus. The Council meets every six weeks or so, and if there are suggestions or reflections about our common life that you would like to share, please free to communicate with any of the Council members as well as with me.


A Community Gathering


In July, we had our first Community Gathering, based on the theme of The Contemplative Body. We explored our own bodies in prayer through dance, walking meditation and body awareness, beautifully led by Hilary Berthon with Yvonne Wisbey’s support. Using poetry and images, we reflected on our personal relationship to the body of Benedictus and on Benedictus’ contribution more broadly. We also heard individually from three members of Benedictus something of their life journeys and work. This part of the day was a real highlight, enabling us to glimpse the richness of our community and the many ways in which we are collectively participating in the life of the world.


Part of what emerged from this experience, I think, was the sense that our contemplative gathering at Benedictus is profoundly connected to the varied ways in which we who gather contribute to the wider community. There is no dualism here: we are a community both gathered and sent. When we come together in worship and strengthen the bonds between us, we are also strengthening one other for our participation in the world. To the extent that we deepen our contemplative practice at Benedictus, so we become more able to act in ways that foster peace, truthfulness and compassion in our work, families and communities.


It is this recognition of the integration of our life together with our lives in the world that is shaping my and the Council’s sense of what we are being called to in the next stage of our journey.


A Community Gathered and Sent


When Jesus returned to his disciples after the resurrection, he called them together in worship and then sent them to love and serve world, to make known God’s life and peace (Matthew 28. 16-20).


There are times when a particular Christian community, or a part of it, is called to express its vocation to serve through a shared work of ministry. A church, for example, might run a drop-in centre or a foodbank. At this point in the life of Benedictus, however, I believe that what has emerged is not a single shared work, so much as a call more intentionally to enable each other’s vocations of loving service, as teachers, parents, doctors, scientists, lawyers, grandparents, policy makers, carers and so on.


L’Chaim


One way in which this is already happening is through our L’Chaim group, which ran this year as a pilot program for formation in contemplative action. L’Chaim means ‘to life!’ Our approach in this group grows from the insight that action disconnected from contemplation is likely to be ‘re-action’, and that often we need the support of  reflective friends to notice our own reactive patterns. L’Chaim seeks to deepen participants’ integration of their spirituality with their life in the world, and to nourish their capacity for true action whatever their work, relationships, and forms of social and political engagement.


L’Chaim will continue from February next year, and I warmly encourage anyone who would like to find out more or to join a group to contact me in the next few weeks.


Autumn Story Groups


Hearing one another’s stories is powerful way of deepening our own spiritual journeys, as well as supporting each other. In the light of another’s commitments and questions, I hear my own story afresh; in seeing the Spirit at work in another’s life, I learn to attend more deeply to her movement in my own.


For up to three meetings during autumn next year, we will facilitate those who would like to participate in small groups to gather together, perhaps over coffee or a shared meal, to hear something of one another’s stories. The aim is not to fix or advise anyone. It’s a chance simply to spend time in hospitable company, becoming more deeply aware of our shared journey in community.


When we resume our services next year, we’ll speak more about some ways this might unfold, but I wanted to give you a little advance notice about it and encourage you to think about whether you’d like to come to one or more such gatherings! I also encourage your ongoing discernment of what we are being called to by God, individually and together, and invite you to share what arises from that process.


An Extended Ministry


Part of the way in which Benedictus is sent into the world is through my ministry and your encouragement of it. I will continue to lead some retreats interstate next year, including for the Victorian branch of the Australian Christian Meditation Community in April. Neil and I will be leading a Circle of Trust© retreat in late March, called The Way of Transition: Journeying With and Through Life’s Changes. This is a retreat open to all, and comes out of the approach pioneered by Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal in the United States. We are among the first cohort of facilitators of this work prepared in Australasia.


Also during March, I have been invited to participate as the Australian representative on the delegation of the worldwide Anglican Communion to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York. The meeting will focus on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, and promises to be a wonderful opportunity for me and (I trust) for our shared life.


In varied ways then, as each of us live out our passions and commitments, our struggles and faithful persistence, we discover what it means for us to be called by God into this community and how together we may more freely and whole-heartedly contribute to the reconciling mission of God in our world.


A Community of Practice


At the heart of our prayer and life, remains our contemplative practice. In silence and stillness, we seek simply to be in the presence of God, giving ourselves wholly to this work of attention, this stance of receptivity. It is God who is at work in and among us – our task is to say ‘yes’, to open our hearts as fully as we are able, to receive the gift that is given, the gift of God’s very self.


For God comes to us, with the vulnerability of a child, inviting us to make room for him. In this Christmas season, I pray that we know the joy of this coming so that we become bearers of peace and blessing to the world God loves so dearly.

 

With my love, Sarah

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter, Easter 2013

 

Dear friends,

 

Jesus said: ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches’. (Luke 13.18-19)


I love these words of Jesus and they have a very personal resonance for me. My Dad was a forester and this was the passage we read at his funeral. Their echo is present at every Benedictus service where Dad’s bonsai trees symbolise this possibility of faithful vitality, this gentle and generous hospitality.


Jesus’ depiction of the kingdom of God also expresses my experience of contemplative life. The practice of silence and stillness seems so small, so innocuous (like a mustard seed). Yet somehow it takes root in our lives, and begins to change everything. We begin to grow. We become more ourselves and more spacious, capable of giving and receiving welcome as our hearts open out like branches and we are less afraid.


When we began to meet as Benedictus just over a year ago, it was as if we planted a mustard seed. We did not know, I did not know, whether it would take root and grow. All that was clear was a call to begin. Well, the seed has grown, and now seems a good time to take stock and reflect on how we are to tend the next season of our life together.


A Contemplative Church?


The theologian Jürgen Moltmann has said that if Christian life is to communicate healing and wholeness (which is the meaning of salvation), then it must be related in a healing way to the sicknesses of a given society. I find this helpful for understanding the global emergence and hunger for the contemplative way of prayer. When the illness of society includes alienation from the basic rhythms of creation and the truth of ourselves, when it leads to frenzied busyness, anxiety, excessive consumption and incessant noise, it is no wonder that the Spirit of God awakens our yearning for stillness, silence and simple presence, drawing us back to the ground of being.


I believe that the reawakening of contemplative consciousness is part of the deep movement of the Spirit of Christ in our time. It is a reawakening that can heal each one of us. It is the only way, as far as I can see, of healing the roots of the fear, greed and illusion which power the juggernaut of Western consumerism and militarism, with its catastrophic social, economic and ecological consequences.


Benedictus is part of this movement of contemplative renewal and healing. It is small and fragile – a mustard seed. But it joins in a current that is already flowing strongly through such global networks as the World Community for Christian Meditation, Contemplative Outreach, and many others both Christian and non-Christian. Already we are attracting interest from people who catch a glimpse of what a community such as ours might offer. At a retreat I will lead in Western Australia in July, for example, I’ve been asked to speak specifically about Benedictus, and I’ve been contacted by people in the United States and elsewhere in Australia keen to hear about our life.


 I do not see the whole of what Benedictus is yet, what it might become or the fullness of the contribution it might make to this movement of the Spirit in the world and the church. But, however unlikely it might seem to say of our mustard seed, I do deeply believe that we are part of this larger contemplative unfolding of the way of Christ in our time and (to borrow words from St Paul) that we are ‘stewards of this mystery’, asked to play our part.


An Unfolding Adventure


So far, the major part of Benedictus’ life has been our weekly Saturday worship service, where we meditate together, reflect on Scripture, share Holy Communion and friendship. During last year, I also led a quiet day, study series in Lent and Advent, and two reflection series called ‘Wintering’ and ‘Mindful Christmas’.  A beautiful music ministry has evolved from within our community, as has a gentle practice of hospitality where we share wine, cheese and conversation after our services from time to time. Our community has grown in numbers and in vitality, offering a space where many of us are finding a home and spiritual refreshment.


I want to share with you two further ventures that are emerging and being discerned.
The first is the establishment of L’Chaim groups with a focus on formation in contemplative action. L’Chaim means ‘to life!’ The groups grow from the insight that action disconnected from contemplation is likely to be ‘re-action’, and that often we need the support of  reflective friends to notice our own reactive patterns. L’Chaim seeks to deepen participants’ integration of their spirituality with their life in the world, and to nourish their capacity for true action in work, relationships, and social and political engagement.


The second venture is to explore forms of contemplative engagement with issues of concern to our society. A helpful model is the outreach program, Meditatio, established by the World Community for Christian Meditation. This model sees Christian engagement with broader society not essentially in terms of lobbying or campaigning, but in terms of conversation and shared commitment to the common good.


As an ecumenical community in the national capital, I believe Benedictus could host conversations with a range of partners and contribute contemplative perspectives on issues of contemporary concern, such as ecology, mental health and education. Contemplative engagement may also take the form of dialogue with other faiths, teaching meditation to children, and programs in theological reflection and spiritual formation.


L’Chaim has begun with a pilot group meeting every second Tuesday evening. The development of forms of contemplative engagement is a longer term project, but one which resonates with me as a way in which a contemplative community might contribute to the healing of our world.


Resourcing the Adventure


Benedictus is currently hosted by Holy Covenant Anglican Church, which has generously donated to us the use of its worship space and other facilities. I am not paid a stipend, but we have taken a weekly collection which has helped to support me and the cost of ministry in the past year.
To resource the next season of our life together and enable us to travel further along the path opening before us, I identify four major needs.


Deepening personal practice


The practice of silence and stillness, being simply present in the presence of God, is at the heart of our life and worship. Teachers of meditation recommend that we meditate twice-daily, for 20 to 30 minutes, saying that this is essential if we really want to learn and be transformed. This can seem a daunting prospect, and sometimes it can take years really to commit to the twice-daily time of silent prayer.


Wherever you are on the journey of contemplation, you are welcome at Benedictus and in our time of meditation in each service we practice together. I encourage each of you, however, to be open to deepening your personal practice as you feel drawn by the Spirit of God. Our growth as individuals and as community depends upon our prayer and discipleship, and I believe that Benedictus’ fullest vitality will be the fruit of a profound communal practice of meditation.


Financial support


Benedictus is a self-supporting community. If I am to spend more time leading Benedictus, developing our ministry and offering more pastoral support, then we will need a stronger financial base to fund that work. As I have discerned my own future ministry, the continued growth of Benedictus as a contemplative church seems to be the path on which I am called. For that to be possible, however, I do need to earn a living!


I am enormously grateful for your contributions to this ministry so far, for your encouragement as well as your financial support. If you are able to make a further financial contribution, please consider doing so – either in the form of a one-off donation or a regular contribution. As well as being able to contribute through the offertory plate on Saturdays, we are now able to receive donations by direct credit through the Holy Covenant account.


If you wish to set up a regular payment or make a donation, the details are as follows:


Commonwealth Bank – BSB 062-907; A/c Number 00802588
Account Name: Holy Covenant
Reference: Benedictus (nb. it is vital to include this reference)

 

Keeping in touch


We are developing a website to enable us to communicate more broadly, as well as to share sermons, reflections, news and other resources. We are also collecting contact details from those who would like to be connected personally to the Benedictus community network. These details will not be shared generally but will enable me to keep in touch with you, and offer more pastoral support.


Taking counsel


As we grow and begin to fund more substantial ministry, I am conscious of the need to take counsel from others, to share leadership and accountability for our life together. In the coming months, I intend to gather a council to exercise this role and invite the wisdom of the community to participate in discerning our way ahead.


A pilgrim church


Living as a contemplative church involves a kind of paradox. On the one hand, we grow inwardly in stability and deep-rootedness, like a tree. On the other hand, that very stability and centredness helps us to yield ourselves into a larger movement, to say ‘yes’ to adventure and pilgrimage even when we cannot see where the journey leads.
I am so thankful for you all, for your willingness to embark on this adventure of faith and to entrust yourselves with me to the movement and call of the Spirit on our lives. I pray that in the coming year, you are deeply blessed so that we in turn may be blessings for the world.


With my love,

 

Sarah