Saturday, 14 March 2015

The provisional and the Permanent

Some of you may have noticed that permanent is not something I do very well. In fact, 18 months into this adventure it is, as a friend recently pointed out, our longest stint anywhere for a while: especially as we have no plans to move anywhere in the near future.

That said, it has hardly been a static 18 months with each week bringing more of the same. Every aspect of our lives, not least those we have lived with during that time, has been filled with variation.

In January and early February we welcomed Jenny and Jurg, a young Swiss couple into our community for five weeks. They joined us as part of a project of the Taizé community, who, throughout this, their anniversary year, are inviting groups of young adults to go "with empty hands" to live together in community.

Together, for five weeks, the five of us, formed one of these “small provisional communities”. It was a little different to the other communities that have been "sent out" from Taize, in that the others have involved a group of young people coming together to form, live and then leave their provisional community; whereas we invited two new members into a community which already existed and would continue to exist after they had moved on.

None the less, we, as much as they, were part of a provisional community for that time: because with each arrival and departure, the shape and feel of the community shifts and changes. Together we discovered new ways of being community. By eating together, living together, talking together and laughing together we grew to know each other. These five weeks were very much a shared experience.

We are discovering that, at least for the moment, this seems to be part of the reality of the community we are creating. Contrary to our initial expectation, and perhaps hope, that we would find others wanting to make the same long-term commitment as us, that hasn't so far proved to be the case. What we have encountered, repeatedly, is people who want to share this life for short periods of time. It is a development which has, I will not deny, engendered certain challenges, both in the need to repeatedly re-establish relationships with new people, and in terms of not yet having found others with whom to share the longer term responsibilities for carrying the life and vision of the community.

But if the challenges have been undeniable, there have also been immeasurable joys. They are not easy to list, these million little things we have shared. Living together through new discoveries, new experiences, new encounters. Being supported by others in a shared routine of prayer. Sharing different theological positions, but knowing you can still  sit down and eat together as one family.  Food, lots of shared food. And laughter. Plenty of laughter.
There is, I guess, a lot to be said for the constant reminders of the provisionality of our lives. We have learned that there are times when it is best not to try and hold to decisions too intransigently, or to try and tie up loose ends too neatly. At the same time, in the midst of regular change and renewal we have also learned the importance of, and need for constancy. It is, paradoxically, the experience of so much change that has reminded us to cling tightly to the core of our vision for what we hope this community might be. While much of our life may look different to what we imagined in the beginning, it feels right that the core values are not up for debate.

For now then, I think I'm content to settle for this balance of provisionality and permanence which seems to have characterised the adventure so far.

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