These days I am staying at the Monastery of St. Clare in Memphis, TN. I share quarters with a friend of mine who is a priest while the sisters of St. Clare live in a separate building on the grounds. Once this place was a thriving community of women devoted to living out a life of simplicity and service. Now , like many religious communities, it has far fewer members while still living the life. It is a good place to reflect on the meaning of community and the ways we might create new structures that would sustain people today in their desire to live community.
A story... there was once a man who gathered thousands of people together and fed them a nourishing meal. It was amazing! All kinds of people... mostly poor though, gathered together and ate and drank, prayed, talked, sang, learned, and were satisfied. Of course this story is the gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand. This story is all about community and has both personal and political implications. Hungry people were fed and organized into groups of fifty. Think about it... What then? Perhaps then they could think about their situation and respond as a group. Perhaps then they would have the strength to say " yes " to building community and " no " to Empire. There was a lot going on on that hillside.
Fast forward about twenty centuries... on a hillside in the region of Burgundy in France and imagine yourself with several thousand people eating , drinking, talking , singing, learning, praying, and being satisfied. This is the community called Taize. The community itself is a Christian monastic community consisting of about 100 brothers who welcome people by the thousands .For the past 60 years or so this community has tried to live out a life of simplicity and service rooted in the Christian tradition.
Each day they gather to share a common life. Each member of the community is vowed to simplicity, celibacy, and a community of goods where everything is shared. Each day their songs and prayers offer themselves and the world into God's loving care and guidance. In the trusting of faith they continue beginning each day again and again.
What might this community have say to us in the 21st century? Is a community like this something that the people in the United States would benefit from? In what ways?
More to come...