This booki belongs alongside Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" on the bookshelf of anybody who's pursuing Christian community.
Vanier describes hiThis booki belongs alongside Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" on the bookshelf of anybody who's pursuing Christian community.
Vanier describes his experiences with community as a leader of L'Arche, a global network of intentional communities for people with develomental disabilities. The wisdom in this book is true, real and powerful.
Definitely a book to read over and over again.
Following is the 1-page book summary paper I wrote for my doctoral class in Rhythms of Living:
Community and Growth by Jean Vanier Paulist (1989)
Description of the Book Community and Growth is Jean Vanier’s reflection on spiritual growth in intentional communities, and is written from his experience with L’Arche communities for developmentally handicapped people.
In the author’s words, Community and Growth “tries to clarify the conditions which are necessary to life in community. It is no thesis or treatise. It is made up of a series of starting-points for reflection, which I have discovered not through books, but through everyday life, through my mistakes, my set-backs and my personal failings, through the inspiration of God and my brothers and sisters, and through the moments of unity between us as well as the tension and suffering. Life in community is painful but it is also a marvelous adventure and a source of life.” (p. 12)
Interpretation of the Book Vanier’s book is organized into eleven sections, each with a topical focus. Within each section there are 10-15 short topics, and each topic includes a smaller number of extended thoughts from a few sentences to a few paragraph. The effect is that of a meditation on community.
Vanier provokes deep thought by telling stories from his experience, from his historical study on monastic Christianity and from his social context. Although it would be difficult to outline Vanier’s thoughts as progressively moving toward a conclusion, the result is similar to holding a diamond in front of the light and rotating it to see different ways in which it shines and reflects the light.
Application The great strength of Community and Growth is that it is written from the field, not from the school. It stands next to Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a classic text on spiritual community, both for its lofty vision and for its realistic portrayal of day-to-day life.
I suggest that anybody interested in spiritual community read this book; in particular, all who live within or wish to live in intentional communities would be well served by reading this book and discussing their way through it with others in community. I suspect that it would give words to the normal challenges of community life. ...more
In our current culture, we usually rush through threshold moments - those borders between past and future, life transitions. We don't pause and reflecIn our current culture, we usually rush through threshold moments - those borders between past and future, life transitions. We don't pause and reflect; we don't celebrate or mark those passages. But borderlands are meant to be explored, and thresholds are meant to be encountered and processed.
This little book is a powerful punch.
Esther de Waal looks at what it is like to live in actual “border country,” the Welsh countryside with its “slower rhythms” and “earth-linked textures,” and explores the importance of opening up and being receptive to one’s surroundings, whatever they may be.
Here is my 1-page summary paper that I wrote for my doctoral class in Rhythms of Living:
To Pause at the Threshold by Esther de Waal Morehouse (2001)
Description of the Book To Pause at the Threshold is a short exploration of the boundary spaces in our lives and our response to these thresholds. In our everyday lives, we are often so busy that we don’t pause and consider the changes we’re going through, and therefore we miss the opportunity to gain something from these threshold moments.
This idea is similar to and also refers to the monastic practice of statio, or leaving time to stand still and let go of the demands of the previous activity, and allowing oneself to prepare a space for the work of God.
Interpretation of the Book The author begins by discussing border places, writing from her home at the border between Wales and England. She then writes an interlude based upon the role of the porter in St. Benedict’s Rule; the porter’s role is to work at the edge of the monastery and provide deep hospitality to those who come from outside the monastery inside its walls.
The book continues with a look at the transitions between nighttime and daytime, and from season to season. Next, the author describes the life transitions revolving around rites of passage and rituals of transition, encouraging us to see the Psalms as the prayer book for such real changes. The next section deals with transitions between the inner life and the outer life, and then finishes with a challenge to be open to outsiders and those different from us in order to learn from them and be changed by them.
Application I find myself nodding and highlighting when reading this book. I am one of those whom de Waal describes, busily plowing through transition points in my day and in my life, without reflecting upon those transitions. This is perhaps why I sense the Spirit of God inviting me to practice mindfulness and attentiveness in the moment, and to also live a more contemplative and reflective life in the midst of my busy schedule.
I enjoyed the Celtic practice of celebrating the transition of the seasons; these transitions happen earlier in the year than our contemporary marking points. I am trying to find a good online calendar of these days and other holy days (especially the feast days of Celtic saints) so that I can incorporate these rhythms into my daily and yearly calendar.
I loved de Waal’s challenge to learn from the land, watching the way it changes and moves. As a renewed gardener, I am learning much about the rhythms of life from this glimpse of nature.
De Waal’s book reminded me of Kathleen Norris’ Dakota, which also balances nature and theology in a very practical way. ...more
This is a six-star book. Heck, call it eleven stars. Absolutely classic.
Life Together was young Dietrich Bonhoeffer's manifesto about the Christian cThis is a six-star book. Heck, call it eleven stars. Absolutely classic.
Life Together was young Dietrich Bonhoeffer's manifesto about the Christian community, written as he was leading an underground seminary for the confessing church under Nazi German rule. The members of the seminary knew that they would be executed if they were found; Bonhoeffer was martyred in the process.
Still, the book deals with the everyday nature of conflict and falling short between one person and another; it drives us into deeper relationship and forgiveness and community.
I'll teach from this book in academic and lay coursework around spiritual formation in communities and networks. It's a bit Lutheran and liturgical in some spots for some readers, but it's overwhelmingly powerful throughout....more