Rector's January 2015 Letter

Rules for Life?

The New Year is traditionally a time for changes, and the observant among us may notice some changes in the pattern of services starting this month.  The service pattern at Farringdon has been swapped round so that they will now have a 9:30 Team Communion on the second Sunday of every month instead of the fourth Sunday as before.  We hope that this will allow more of us to join the Farringdon congregation than was possible before.  On the fourth Sunday, Farringdon will have an Evening service instead, beginning in January with a Taize service.  If you have ever attended an evening service at Farringdon, you will know what a lovely atmosphere this lovely little church has at that time of day, so do join us for that even if you have somewhere else to be in the morning!  Our plan is to keep things fresh by varying it from month to month – perhaps a Celtic service, or a Songs of Praise, or a Service of Healing, and so on.  So do let us know if there is some particular type of service you would like to attend so that we can add it into the mix.

Changes will no doubt be in the air for many of us as we make our New Year Resolutions, and in a sense we are doing the same with our personal lives as we have been doing with our rota of services; seeking to change the ‘rules’ slightly in order to correct an imbalance or create new opportunities for flourishing.  Whether our ‘rules of life’ are to do with prayer and meditation or with not eating cheesecake after 8pm, this is actually a very ‘religious’ thing to do.

The original meaning of the word ‘religion’ is from the Latin word that means ‘to bind’.  It was first applied, not to the everyday business of believing in God, but to the acceptance of monastic vows – which is why even today it is quite correct to use the term ‘a religious’ for a monk or nun.

Many religious orders these days also have ‘Third Order’ sections, which are composed of people who have decided to accept a form of the monastic vows designed for living in ‘ordinary life’ – usually working out with a spiritual advisor exactly what a vow of ‘poverty’ might mean for them as a merchant banker, for example!  The Franciscan Third Order is perhaps the best known, and it is entirely possible that you know people who have accepted this Rule for themselves.

The whole idea of a ‘Rule of Life’, whether formal or informal, is based on the realisation that whether we recognise it or not, we are always ‘ruled’ by something.  If it isn’t a way of life we have deliberately thought about and chosen, it is likely to be one chosen for us by circumstances and the most pressing of our appetites.  (That cheesecake again!)  So a well-thought out Rule of Life will aim to bring the ‘internal trinity’ of Body, Mind and Spirit into harmony by encouraging each to nourish the other two.

If we think of our New Year Resolutions as part of this ongoing process, we start to see that they are potentially a way to embody the things we care most about and yet which get squeezed out of our daily lives by things that seem more urgent.  In the traditional Rule of a Benedictine monk, the day is divided up into times for prayer, meditation, physical work and craftsmanship, eating, social recreation and sleep, and none of those is allowed to encroach on the others.  It is as much a breaking of the rule to continue in prayer when the bell goes for gardening as it would be to stay in the garden chatting when you should be at prayer.

I think my ‘New Year Resolution’ this year will be to focus on this balance.  Rather than specific actions I will have four small stones in a jar – one each for Body, Mind and Spirit and another for Sleep – as a night owl I am always far too ready to convince myself that sleep is not a priority, and yet I know quite well that it affects all the other three areas profoundly.  Every day, I will aim to take all four stones out of the jar by doing something that fosters that area.  I can feel myself thinking that that will perhaps be too easy – and yet I know that in reality, it will often be a struggle.   What are your New Year Resolutions?

Rev’d Karen Spray      church@revdkaren.org.uk             01392 877400


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