"Perfect" Community. — 10,000 Fathers Worship School
In the early 6th century Christianity had been the official religion of the Roman Empire for nearly 200 years. The Church had reached new heights of wealth and power. Gone were the days of Christians being known as a simple people who shared their lives and cared deeply for one another. Church leaders were becoming affluent influencers of politics and culture. Many sincere believers who felt wealth and power would only corrupt and institutionalize their precious faith, fled to the deserts to pursue simple lives of love and service. Benedict of Nursia first left Rome in search of personal solitude; but his quiet, pious life drew the attention of many so that eventually he began establishing monastic houses in remote wilderness areas. Credited as the Father of Western Monasticism, he is most remembered for The Rule that he wrote and is still used 1500 years later. The Rule consists of 73 chapters that outline in very practical ways, how the Benedictine monks would live in love and service towards one another. One of their guiding principles was the vow of stability. To take this vow meant to commit oneself to that community of monks for the rest of one’s life.
Is that extreme? Yes, very. In fact the strict asceticism of the early monastic orders may have been an overreaction to the newly gained wealth and power of the organized Church. However, in a world where we can unfriend and unfollow with the click of a button, stay home or change churches altogether without people noticing, we would do well to learn from these simple desert fathers and mothers. In a culture that craves connection, the values of the 6th century Benedictine monks are as relevant as ever. The point is, they knew sacrificial and authentic community was central to the faith. They made it a priority, and we can as well.
To be clear, there are no easy fill-in-the-blank answers here. This looks different for everyone. In my family’s pursuit of true community, we moved from a geographical location that we loved dearly, to live life and mission with a group of people who are friends in the truest sense; and in the journey together, they have become like family. We worship together and share life together; not just the pretty parts. We share fears, frustrations and failures and we fight for one another. We share our broken, messy, beautiful lives. This is the Kingdom way.