One of the subjects brought up in the various handbooks and suchlike that you are given as you prepare to join a theological training college, or certainly as you prepare to join Wesley House, is that of building and living in community. For many this subject may be quite new but it is one I have a quite serious amount of experience of. As I write this I am on a train heading back to Cambridge, having been in London for an Iona Community Regional Plenary. It was a really good day, and a chance to catch up with both my former Family Group members and my new East Anglia FG members (a Family Group is a group of Iona Community members who live (reasonably) close to one another and meet regularly to offer mutual support and discuss issues), as well as meet others, both known and unknown.
You see, the Iona Community is a dispersed community. Indeed, as we were reminded today, it has never been more dispersed than it is now – with members living and working on (almost) every continent (although the vast bulk remain in the various parts of the British Isles). We are a community bound not by our locale but by our commitment to the Community’s Five-Fold Rule:
– regular, indeed daily, prayer and Bible reading/studying.
– accounting to one another for use of resources such as money and the environment.
– accounting to one another for the planning and use of our time.
– meeting regularly, both in groups and as a full Community.
– acting individually and corporately on matters of peace, justice and the integrity of creation.
As an extension of this Rule we are also expected to be committed to a life within our own communities – such as the church we are a member of and the people we live amongst, such as my fellow residents at Wesley House. And living in community is not always an easy task.
One of the highlights of today was that we had Peter Macdonald, Leader of the Community, with us, and he spent about an hour talking about where the Community is at and where and what he thinks the Community should be looking to do over the coming 3 years. This led to some talk about what it’s like to be a Member or Associate Member in England when the Community’s spiritual and administrative home is in Scotland. This has been a developing issue over the last few years as the number of Members in England has grown to such an extent they now outnumber those living in Scotland. It is something the Community must bear in mind as it moves forward.
Likewise, I do not anticipate that living amongst the community that is Wesley House will always be easy. There will undoubtedly be challenges ahead, of what kind I cannot say. But, like the Iona Community, we are all there not just because we live there but because we have a larger commitment, a commitment to a life as leaders and enablers within the Methodist Church. I am confident our shared goals will see us through those difficulties ahead, just as I am confident the Iona Community will continue to grow and succeed through its current process of re-calibrating and re-rooting.