Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Continuing Adventures in Community

As the condensation on the windows suggests that autumn is approaching and thoughts of the summer holidays are fast-fading into the recesses of memory, our adventure in community here in Birmingham continues apace and it feels like it is probably high-time for an update on life.

While I have studiously tried to avoid this blog becoming a mere recount of experiences which are fun to be lived but probably rather dull to read about, perhaps there are times when it is right to share and celebrate some of the realities as well as the reflections they inspire.

So the Carrs Lane Lived Community is now one year old, and after a much-needed summer break the routine is firmly re-established once more, with days shaped around morning and evening prayer and a shared evening meal. The twitter and facebook feeds are (so far ... it's still only September) being kept up to date, and the website has lots of new pages including some photos of year 1.

The most significant recent development in the life of the community is that, well, its really a community these days! The flat is now home to four resident members (shown in the photo, along with Giuliano, who joined us for a couple of weeks), and we have plenty of plans to welcome others for shorter periods of time.

From the beginning, we made a conscious choice not to actively advertise for members but rather to wait and allow the community to grow organically. We knew this was the right choice, but I have to admit to times last year when I began to wonder how long we could continue to sustain "community" as only two. As is often the way, it was into that space of uncertainty that signs of growth began to appear.

While we didn't know how the community would grow, our prediction that it would happen in ways we didn't expect certainly proved true when our third community member turned out to be a ninety-year old nun. Whatever else we thought might happen, that one was certainly not on our radar and appeared as an unexpected gift. With 70 years experience of community life, Sr Mary-Joseph certainly adds a different dynamic to our community. I find her presence hugely inspiring and hope that when I am ninety I will both still be seeking to live a life of community shaped around a routine of prayer ... and also still open enough to find it in very new and different ways that I couldn't possibly have imagined when I started out on this adventure.

The end of August saw the arrival of member number 4, a friend from university days taking up our year in community invitation and coming to live, pray and volunteer alongside us for the next year. While this, in some ways, follows a less unexpected path, it will nonetheless be a source of newness as we find ways to grow and deepen a friendship which will look very different lived out together than kept up by facebook and occasional visits.

Community continues to stretch wider than just those living in the flat, with both occasional and regular faces sharing with us in the prayers as well as several people signed up to come and spend a couple of weeks or longer living the routine with us. It is sometimes good (and probably important) to remind ourselves from where we have come. If at times things have seemed to move slowly; looking back over the last year; from the nothing we started with to what we have now is a reminder of life, and growth and hope.

And so begins the second year of this latest adventure. I am sure it will look and feel very different from the first. There will be challenges, of that I have no doubt. There will be struggles and there will be sacrifice. But I reckon it will all be worth it. Because I am fairly sure there will be life, abundantly!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Magic Box

As is probably fairly obvious for readers of this blog, I quite like poetry. Creating it, more than reading it, actually. I have no idea whether any of the poetry I write is "good" by objective literary standards; but at least sometimes I find there are ideas, reflections and emotions which can be explored in poetry in ways that are impossible in prose. 

Almost all the poetry on my blog so far has been of my own composition, but today is a departure from that. During the St Chad's Summer School this year I had the privilege of sharing my love of playing with words and allowing them to delve deep into our human experience with two small groups of refugees and asylum seekers. Their English levels ranged from virtually none to virtually fluent .. and their life-experiences ranged far beyond anything I can possibly imagine.

I forgot to keep a copy of the results of the first session, but below is the collective effort of one Turkmen-Russian, two Syrians, one Sudanese, and an Eritrean one Friday morning in July ... with a little bit of help from a certain Kit Wright (google it if you want to see the original)

The Magic Box
(Inspired by Kit Wright’s Magic Box)
By Murad, Hamid, Nasradin, Adel and Fadi

I will put in the box
The fresh sea air blowing across the beach
The joyful sounds of splashing and laughter
The taste of salty sea water on the tip of my tongue

I will put in the box
My first innocent idea when I wake up in the morning sunlight
The glorious adventure of a wonderful childhood
The happy memory of the days of my past where there were no cloudy skies

I will put in the box
The journey to discover a world I have never seen before
The sound of new languages when I travel the world
A carnival atmosphere where everyone understands the language of dancing and music

I will put in the box
My first kiss, my first sadness, my first forgiveness, my first goodbye
A rainbow of emotions over which I fly with bird-like wings
A celebration of the memory of the first day of a new life

My box is fashioned from dreams becoming a new reality,
with smiles on the lid and laughter in the corners.
Its hinges are the innocent kisses of children.

I shall surf in my box
On the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic
Then wash ashore on a yellow beach
The colour of the sun.