7 November 2010

Religious Life Advisory Group meeting

This past weekend I’ve been attending the Religious Life Advisory Group meeting in Hamilton. The group is hosted by Archbishop David Moxon, who besides being the Primate of New Zealand, is also the Liaison Bishop for Anglican Religious. Present were Bishop Victoria Matthews (Bishop of Christchurch), and representatives from the Community of the Sacred Name (Christchurch), Sisters of the Love of God (Hokianga), Third Order Society of St Francis (dispersed), Urban Vision (Wellington), Society of St Francis First Order brothers (Hamilton), a Benedictine oblate who is also a member of a small group of retreat masters, and Associates of the Holy Cross, as well as me representing the Community of Solitude.

Bishop Victoria led a retreat in the Saturday morning and she asked some very interesting questions:
  • What identifies Jesus as Lord and Messiah for me?
  • What makes Jesus’ identity secure?
  • What makes my identity as a disciple and minister of Christ secure?
  • What anomalies have I decided don’t matter so my identity is secure?
Once we’d meditated on those questions for a while, she asked some more:

  • How do we invite interruptions to change us?
  • Where do interruptions bring us closer to the breaking in of the Kingdom of God?

She talked about the “rooted life” rather than the balanced life (Benedictines like talking about balance), rooted in prayer, study, and adoration of God, that allows grace to break into conversation, and forming a space where we can live so we can accept interruptions with grace.
Once we’d had midday prayer and lunch, we launched into the meeting proper, chaired by Archbishop David. Each representative shared some of the joys and challenges of religious life as it is lived by their community, and the sharing was not perfunctory. There was deep sharing, laughter, tears, and storytelling in the most graced sense of the word. 
Some highlights for me:

  • Getting to know some of the other religious orders in New Zealand, and meeting some of their leaders
  • Getting to know two bishops in a very relaxed environment!
  • Sharing prayer with everyone
We finished yesterday with evening prayer, a glass of wine, and dinner. We also had a chance to look at the chapel at Te Ara Hou (which is where we were staying), which had been set up by the Romanian Orthodox congregation that use it on Sunday mornings. It was glistening with icons, shimmering with candles and by this afternoon it would have been oozing incense as well.

Today, we shared communion (led by Br Brian SSF), and picked up some of the key issues that we had tagged from yesterday’s sharing, and batted around some ideas on how to work them through. A number of them centred around communication of our work, vision, and vocation to the wider Anglican Church in NZ. We finished with midday prayer, and then Archbishop David did a very lovely thing. Two of the members are having surgery this week, and he asked them if they would be happy to be anointed during the midday prayer – it was the most beautiful, gracious, gentle anointing I have ever seen. There was a very strong sense of God’s healing presence there as he laid hands on them, prayed for them, and anointed them with the holy oil.

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