On Monday December 27th, Alan and Sarah Berry met with 16 of us from Washington State who have an interest in the NC.
We had a great time sharing stories and chicken curry. (Thanks, Erin)
Sarah shared portions of the information which comprise a “Community Weekend” with us, Alan played guitar and lead us in the Mid Day and Morning Offices, and Diane Sekuloff crossed the border and joined us from Canada, sharing her stories and guitar-work as well.
Sarah was eager for us to understand not just the information, but the CONTEXT…namely that this information is normally shared in the context of the daily rhythm at Nether Springs.
It was interesting: I felt the Berry’s longing to transport us all to Northumbria. I could hear it in Sarah’s voice. It was implicit in Alan’s storytelling and conversation…”If only you could BE there with us…THEN you would understand..” was the message. The “place” matters.
I get that.
I have been a friend of the NC for 2 years, but ironically for one who is called “friend”, I have had only minimal contact with the people of the NC before Monday and I have had NO exposure to “place”. Yet I continue to resonate with the ethos and vision of the NC. My time with Diane, Alan and Sarah only magnify that resonance…yet we were in a corporate meeting room, thousands of miles from Acton House!
How can “place” matter so much, and yet not matter at all?
Being a 4th generation Pacific North westerner, I think I understand it. This is a big place with an enormous presence of mountain, sea and wildness. I have hiked much of it, and have felt it’s touch. It gets inside you. It changes you. Drink it’s water, breathe it’s air, learn the stories of its people and you begin to carry it. You then pass those gifts on to your children and the longer they live in a place, the more they become a part of it.
At certain key intersections where we, the Image Bearers of God, connect deeply with the rest of the creation, it’s like we can soak up a place in a very short time; it downloads into us in a matter of months, weeks of even days. Certain kinds of spiritual people call these “thin places”.
Now imagine a group of people who intentionally live in a thin place, who pursue the “Knowledge of the Holy” and who are carried along by the power of the Holy Spirit. A community will become charged like a battery. Now imagine visitors stepping into that charged environment for a time. When they leave, they will carry the charge with them.
We did not get to smell the sea being carried by Northumbrian winds, nor hear Morning Office sung with a Geordie accent…but Sarah, Alan and Diane carried the NC to us none the less.
God has been speaking to me of things Monastic for some time. Glimpses and whispers of what he would build, but direct views have been nonexistent. In all truth, the clear, resounding CALL I had hoped would come on Monday did not. Certainly I have a better understanding of the NC, a greater love for what it stands for, and an increased affection for the people I spent the day with. That alone is gift enough.
But I also have a burning in my heart…a desire…an impulse….a pull and I feel as if I am left with a handful of puzzle pieces, a few of which fit into a partial picture, and a few do not. It feels useless. A waste. What does a man do with a handful of puzzle pieces that don’t make a picture?
Many thanks to the Berrys and Diane.