Greenside Church Embarks On Rule of Life Journey
More than 70 people from a Gateshead Church have set out to live their lives together as a community under a common ‘Rule of Life’ bond.
Members of Greenside Parish Church have decided to live their lives under the bond of a Rule of Life that binds them together as a community; reaching inwards towards Jesus and outwards towards others.
The communities Rule of Life which sets out guiding principles in the sharing their Joys & Burdens, Gifts and Needs, Food and Company and life stories was commissioned by the Rt Revd, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham on Sunday 17th November.
They become the first parish in the Diocese of Durham to dedicate themselves to an intentional Rule of Life and to be accountable to each other for the way they live it.
Bishop Paul said: “Christian rule of life is happening in many places. Indeed, some organisations have adopted a rule of life because it is all built on the monastic rule of life from the past. But it’s taking something old and then thinking what does it look like in the modern era for all people, not just a select.”
Asked how this is subtly different from other parish communities Bishop Paul said: “The subtle difference is actually coming up with some specific words agreed together, stated together and asking the Bishop to commission and pray for them. So it’s the intentional aspect of it which is different. It’s the deliberate, intentional working together. What words should we say? How should we make this commitment and then making that commitment and holding each other to account? I think wisely they’ve just said we’re doing this for 2020. We’ll learn. We’ll see with a view to probably redoing it. But actually, let’s see how this works together.
“It’s the first parish in the Diocese that has decided to go this route. They’ve designed it for themselves. It’s a way of them exploring, how are we together as followers of Jesus? Rule of life is a really good pattern and idea, so I hope other parishes will think about doing it as well.”
The Revd Tom Brazier Vicar of Greenside and architect of the Greenside Rule of Life said: “This is not new. I have learnt a lot from the “new monasticism” movement, which is now well-established. But I asked myself can such a thing could be done with a Church of England parish church? After all, in the Church of England, we don’t even have such a thing as a member list.
“People’s association with the church can very strong or very loose, and they associate in such a wide variety of ways. Is it possible to create some kind ‘rule’ which is not either too vague to be of any meaningful value or too exclusive to fit parish church?
This is the question we have set ourselves to explore. For 2020, we have decided to live under a rule of life which sets out to try and square this particular circle. As we travel through the year, we will review how we are doing and, eventually, we will decide whether this is something we will continue in future years.
During the dedication, Bishop Paul presented every member of the community with a lapel badge to be worn inside and outside the community as a reminder about the commitment made to live under their Rule of Life and as a sign and conversation starter for other people.
The badge signifies that they are a community of people centred around Jesus, that the circle is never complete and others are welcome to join and they are equally focused inwardly as well as outward in their discipleship.
The Greenside Rule of Life
We are all on a journey. We are following in the Way behind our founder Jesus Christ. For a time our paths run together. During this time, we choose to travel together. We choose to be safe companions, we choose to love, we choose to reach outwards to others, we choose to reach inwards towards Jesus, we choose to share:
- we share each other’s joys and burdens
- we share each other’s gifts and needs
- we share each other’s food and company
- we share each other’s stories
When our paths part, we will part well, knowing that one day we will all live together with Jesus forever.
Revd Tom Bazier Expand his thinking
I have yearned for many years for life together in our
parish church to become deeper and stronger. I yearn to be with people for whom the church is not just part of their life, but the cornerstone of their life. People with a common goal and a common heart and a deliberate commitment to walk together in life’s journey of being a follower of Jesus. Over the years, I have found that many other people share the same longing. I particularly found this longing in Greenside Parish Church who, when they were looking for a new vicar in 2015, said: “We want more sharing of our life together”. They quoted Acts 2 which paints a picture of a church which was devoted to life together.
At the same time, I am aware that this is largely naive romanticism. Churches contain people and sooner or later we people always find each other annoying and inconvenient.
However, I have become convinced (based largely on the experience of monastic communities through the ages) that God wants to use these very tensions to heal and transform us. I believe that there is a kind of “true community” which holds together despite the tensions and, in so doing, touches our deepest needs, heals our deepest hurts and sets us free from our deepest shortcomings to grow into the people God most truly made us to be. (The churchy term for this is “disciples of Christ”.)
I am also convinced that our society needs more examples of true community, especially in this day when all kinds of community are increasingly breaking down. But is it possible to create this kind of community – or at least to increase the odds of it happening? Is there some kind of “trick” to it? I think we can learn from monastic communities that it helps greatly to be “intentional”. That means to do it on purpose. Monastic communities do this by committing to live together under a “rule of life”. These rules of life vary immensely but a common element is always the deliberate common choice to live in a certain way and to challenge, encourage and help each other to do so.
This is not new. I have learnt a lot from the “new monasticism” movement, which is now well-established. But can such a thing be done with a Church of England parish church? After all, in the Church of England, we don’t even have such a thing as a member list. People’s association with the church can very strong or very loose. And they associate in such a wide variety of ways. Is it possible to create some kind “rule” which is not either too vague to be of any meaningful value or too exclusive to fit parish church? This is the question we have set ourselves to explore. For 2020, we have decided to live under a rule of life which sets out to try and square this particular circle. As we travel through the year, we will review how we are doing and, eventually, we will decide whether this is something we will continue in future years.
Jesus calls us to follow him as disciples. But he doesn’t call us to follow him by ourselves. He calls us to follow him together. In your rule of life, you are choosing to travel behind Jesus. You are choosing to travel together. You are choosing to be safe companions on the road. You are choosing to live in love, reaching both inwards towards Jesus and outwards towards others. You are choosing to share. You are choosing to part well when your paths diverge.