On 9th – 11th February 2018, members of the Wellspring community, Peckham, went on a weekend retreat to Hilfield friary, a Franciscan friary in Dorset, south west England.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I love morning prayer. I love the way it recalls, and brings us into, the Christian vision of hope, of God opening up a closed world. I love the way it asserts the making-possible involved - not a making-possible that is easy, but something which both allows us, and calls us, to participate in the ongoing process of resurrection.
On Thursday 9th November, Simon Bubb from the Wellspring Community met up with Jane from our sister community, St Margaret the Queen in Streatham. Listen below to hear more about the shared experience of forming and building new monastic communities in South London:
Since the summer, Peckham Citizens has been meeting in the church hall at St Luke’s, Peckham to discuss and take action on the issue of knife crime in the local area. Various members have formed a part of these monthly meetings, including local organisations and parish churches. Members from the Wellspring community, such as myself, have also been present, as part of our commitment to be a community that puts loving action and service at the heart of what we do.
I was fortunate enough this morning to be sent a link to a talk given a few years ago by John O’Donohue, the late great Irish poet and mystic, entitled ‘Imagination as the Path of the Spirit’. You can hear it here:
So much of what we’re dreaming of in the Wellspring Community finds a voice in this talk. We find ourselves in a time when many people are deeply disappointed in the version of God they have been offered. A domesticated, disapproving God. Instead, we want to encounter, and help others encounter, a God who is surprising, wild, imaginative, and endlessly welcoming. O’Donohue says:
I think that there is a wonderful danger in God that we have totally forgotten. Because one of the things humanoids like to do is they like to bring in the tamers to tame their deities down. They don’t like the idea of a wild God, because it could get very awkward, and deeply embarrassing…And one of the reasons that young people are leaving religion is because God has died for them, or become incredibly boring and uninteresting. And I think one of the tasks of our time, for those that are interested in God, is to make God dangerous again.
Surely, you might say, the last thing the world needs right now is religious people talking about a dangerous God. But O’Donohue isn’t talking about fundamentalism, which he says “is the answer to nothing, based on a past that never existed”. Instead, he quotes the great medieval mystic Meister Eckhart:
Nothing in the universe resembles God so much as silence.
Contemplative prayer, in which we seek stillness and spaciousness, allows us first to observe the patterns of our needy minds, and then to encounter this surprising God in the settling silence. Except of course, the silence may be unsettling. Because the wild God might begin to speak to us of how our need for certainty and security is holding us back.
This might be the call to live a more imaginative and colourful life. This is also a God revealed in the beauty and wildness of Nature, and in music, poetry and art. This is a God who is creative and imaginative, wildly feminine and tenderly masculine, wildly masculine and tenderly feminine. A God who, we dare to believe, can be discovered in our own lives and desires if we can only learn how to listen. As O’Donohue says:
Your concept of God should be feisty and imaginative and rich enough to incorporate all the hungers of your heart.
May we, in the Wellspring Community, be ready to welcome this God into our lives and our city. We have a piece of liturgy at the end of our Contemplative Service that asks God to free us up to be not human beings but “human becomings”, in the image of a dynamic and creative God. We pray that prayer again today.
I would love to live like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. (John O'Donohue)
- Simon Bubb July 2017
In this the second of two podcasts led by Adam Bucko in dlialogue with the Wellspring Community Peckham, Adam Bucko explores the realities and challenges of using a contemplative approach as the medium of engagement with traumatised homeless youth. Adam Bucko is a founder of a new monastic community in New York City and is an Ordinand in training to become an Episcopal Priest. This was recorded on Tuesdsy 18th July 2017.
In this podcast recorded on tthe 11th July 2017, Adam Bucko told his life story to unpack how new monasticism impacted his life, spirituality and world. Adam is a founder of a radical new monastic commuiity in New York whose loving action was the support and encouragememt of street homeless young people. Adam's story is quite unique with influences from the Solidarność freedom movment in Poland, and the affects of civil war and oppression, being an undocumented immigrant into the United States, and lots of experience of Roman Catholic and Episcopalian justice movements, resulting in a pretty unique new monastic community in New York. Adam is also training for the Ordained Priesthood. This is the first of two podcasts.
Thoughts and reflections on the June 2017 General Election from Fr Peter Packer, Benedictine monk and Priest in Charge at St John, Chrysostom in Peckham:
I think all people of good will have been depressed for the last year. I know I have. It's been a struggle to fight despair and to find hope. This is because the forces of darkness, self-interest and capital are very strong. They warp the very minds even of those who know what is happening.
Luckily this election coincided with Eastertide which - whether people believe the story as literal truth, as we Christians do, or not - is a potent foundational human story of the victory of hope over despair, of love over hate, and of the common good over vested or political self-interest.
The thing I admire most about Corbyn is his refusal to engage in personal attacks and to offer a positive campaign not based on vilification and hate. That more than anything marks him as a politician of a different order, for all his many weaknesses and short-comings, and deserving of the support of all who care about decency, kindness and honesty.
The fact is that we as a country are living beyond our means - like every Western nation and we are getting older. Whether spending more alone and taxing more to pay for that is the best answer, or the only one, needs debate. But the disparity between the rich and the poor has now reached such enormous and shameful proportions that adjustments must be made. Radical solutions must be found and tried.
Have Labour have explored all sides of the argument and all possible allies ideas fully? There is still a little time to do this. But in proposing different solutions to the challenges we face as a country, they have done immeasurable service to the debate. They have also energised a whole swathe of younger people and voters to engage and act, exposed the fallacy that it is 'the Sun wot won it', and inserted a counter- argument into public discourse.
More than anything this means HOPE.
Some might argue that they should have done better. This is absurd. Coming from where they and the Tories were a month ago they did spectacularly. Brilliantly. Now they must build on this and on a coalition of good will and collaboration - not retreat back into the same exclusive arrogance of former times or ape the viciousness of the Tory opposition.
This may mean some compromises - which McDonnell-Corbyn are perhaps because of their age and history not best suited for - but a progressive and transformational platform is wholly possible. And rallying new voters and different voters as they have done is a truly wonderful start. I was becoming exhausted and enfeebled by the tragedy of events to a country I love ( but not unconditionally) but that is why the engagement of the younger portion of the electorate is so significant.
As the endless pundits now appearing to ameliorate the shameful Tory situation with their middle-aged pundit's spin show, it will not be easy to unravel the tentacles of capital's quintessential will to power. Because what that requires and gets from it's supporters is a consequent false consciousness that masquerades as 'common sense', prudence or political necessity. It is not easy to escape from the accepted and institutionalised mores of unfairness, injustice and inequality which our national cultural language has thoroughly entrenched. From the fantasy of the 'trickle down effect' to blame-shifting with cruel stories of 'scroungers and lay-abouts' - these lies have been drilled into the codes of accepted 'truths'
As someone wrote, the young know no better than to choose Corbyn. EXACTLY. They do indeed think and believe that a fairer more just and open society is possible. They are not imprisoned by post-war and cold war mythologies and accepted certainties. They want to try for the moon - and are not content with a drip feed of fading stars.
Let us empower them in every way we can - from our armchairs, wheelchairs and death-beds if necessary. Give them our money and our love to fight for a better world and, where we can and with as much energy as we may have teach, preach, dialogue and encourage.
I believe Christ died to assert the essential goodness of every human being and of the very fabric of the universe itself. He died a death of shame and rejection without a sword in his hand, the rich and powerful behind him, between two thieves - but with forgiveness and love in His heart.
That belief in people's goodness and in the fact that there is hope even in despair and rejection should give us courage now.
We must now all dare to hope that a new collaboration of good will for the rejected, ignored, left-behind, sick, disabled, young, CAN be made. And struggle to make that hope overcome fear and selfishness.
Every best wish,
Dr. P. A. Packer
In the Church of England ‘Mission-Shaped Church Report’, now over 13 years old, New Monasticism was identified as one of a number of different forms of missional Fresh Expressions of Church, which it was hoped would contribute to the renewal of the Church. This was the centrepiece of Archbishop Rowan Williams' Episcopacy and continues as an important focus for the Church of England today. Further, Archbishop Justin Welby has identified renewal of the ‘Religious Life’ and Prayer as two central elements to his Episcopacy, where he has invited new monastic communities to play their part in renewing old and new approaches to intentional Christian Community and ancient expressions of contemplative prayer. This lies at the heart of the new monastic Community that Archbishop Justin has planted as its Abbot at the St Anselm Community at Lambeth Palace, that gives an opportunity for Christian young adults to participate in a Rhythm of Life centred around prayer, work and action for a year.
‘New Monasticism’ first appeared as a term in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, where in a letter to his brother from prison shortly before his death he wrote:
'...the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this...'
In fact you could argue that there has always been a monastic spiritual essence in the Church of England given that founders and Archbishop Cranmer with the Book of Common Prayer drew so heavily on monastic and mendicant contemplative spirituality and liturgy. Writers such as the wonderfully named Phyllis Tickle has said that most of the renewal movements of the Church have drawn heavily on monastic spirituality.
In the Diocese of Southwark we now have two recognised and authorised New Monastic Communities – the Wellspring Community in Peckham and the Community of St Margaret the Queen in Streatham. Both of these communities were inspired by the pioneering Moot Community now in the City of London in the Diocese of London which began at the Parish Church of St Matthews Westminster.
At the heart of these communities is a hunger to go deeper with contemplative prayer, community living and loving service. As such many of these new monastic communities are drawing on a fusion of Ignatian, Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality providing a broad framework to help these small communities to go deep with a distinctly Christian spirituality in the context of a culture that is increasing seeking greater significance, experience and meaning. This is not new. Fr Gareth Powell, (the Priest Missioner and Prior to the St Margaret the Queen Community in Streatham) in his PhD thesis drew on the work of Bishop Westcott to remind us that the vision of the Oxford Movement and the refounding of Religious Communities back into the Church of England in the 19th Century shared this DNA of a monastic spirituality, often in the Urban Context.
On Sunday 21st May, before Bishop Christopher, twelve people made a commitment to seasonal vows and a further six made commitments to be part of the Wellspring Community at their spiritual home of St Luke’s (Camberwell) in Peckham. These eighteen people of diverse age and ethnicities seek to play their part in the renewal of the Church in Peckham.
The pattern of weekly daily prayer and Sunday evening Contemplative Worship Services in the Church; a communal meal on Tuesdays in the Clergy House; and a commitment to prayerful action is not rocket science, yet there is a hunger to go deeper into the spiritual life of obediently following the way of Jesus as set out in the gospels.
Authentic Christian spirituality then is essentially at the heart of this movement – Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, John Main Anchor Word Meditation, Ignatian ways to pray with the Bible, the list is endless. Yet a mature approach into the depth of this tradition is essential if this renewal of the Religious Life is truly going to bring renewal to the Church and its mission.
- Ian Mobsby
Ian Mobsby is the Prior to the Wellspring Community, Priest in Charge St Luke’s (Camberwell) in Peckham and the Mission Enabler in the Woolwich Episcopal Area. Ian is a co-opted member of the ‘Advisory Council of the Relationships between Diocesan Bishops and Religious Communities’ and an Associate Missioner of the Fresh Expressions movement in the UK.
On Sunday 21st May 2017, members and participants of The Wellspring Community, from St Luke’s Church, in Peckham gathered together to make their first seasonal vows in committing to live out a Rhythm of Life.
Friends and family of the community, as well as the communities of St Margaret the Queen, Streatham, St Thomas, Ipswich and members of the Society of St Francis, amongst others, attended to support and bless the Wellspring community in its journey ahead.
The Rhythm of Life service, led by the Bishop of Southwark, Bishop Christopher Chessun saw twelve members and six participants commit to vows centring around prayer and devotion, learning and reconciliation, service and hospitality, and work and wellbeing.
These commitment vows are rooted in ancient monastic traditions where work, rest and play fall around a daily rhythm of prayer, worship and service. Each community member - although from diverse cultures and backgrounds - has made these vows not only as a commitment to go deeper in faith, but more importantly, to live out a distinctively monastic spirituality of prayer and action.
The vows also represent for us a longing to live a rich spiritual life in a society that is increasingly secular and individualised. Moreover, it represents a longing to live a life together in which a rhythm of prayer is deeply embedded into our normal, everyday working lives.
Following in Franciscan footsteps of loving hospitality and service, the community has spent time in and around the local area listening to the needs of the local community. Out of this, we hope to reach out and support those who are struggling (financially or otherwise), as well as the lonely and marginalised. We also seek to reach out to young, non-church goers in the area who are looking to explore spirituality through contemplation and meditation.
Making these commitments marks a journey of almost two years dreaming, discussion and discernment of what it would mean to live as a New Monastic community in the context of Peckham and Camberwell in South London.
In establishing a name and identity for the community, there was a deep sense that the name and identity of the community should tie in with image of a well, or more generally of water. The image of a well is also geographically symbolic, as historically, there used to be a well in Camberwell, which some believed to have healing powers.
We therefore felt it was important to centre the name around a source or place where one can find their sense of wellbeing; spiritual, physical and mental. Moreover, for the Wellspring community to be a place where one can encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit and find renewed life through the spirit.
We are all excited for what the future holds, and how we can make a difference, not only to our own spiritual lives, but the lives of each other and the wider community of Peckham and Camberwell.
To find out how you can get involved or support what we are doing, please click here.
- Catherine Rowland, community member
In this podcast recorded at the first Rhythhm of Life Service of the Wellspring Community at St Lukes Church Peckham, members of the community made commitments to contemplative prayer, community living and loving service before a packed church congregation. In the address at this service, Bishop Christopher, the Bishop of Southwark, explored the application of Zechariah 8.1-13, Revelation 21.22 - 22.5 and John 21.1-14 in the context of those who have made seasonal vows and commitments. This podcast was recorded on the 21st Mary 2017 at the Church of St Lukes (Camberwell) in Peckham in the Woolwich Episcopal Area of the Diocese of Southwark in the Church of England.
On Tuesday 16th of May the New Monastic Community gathered in the Clergy House for our usual Tuesday meal with guests Barton and Jaime who have been part of the non-residential element of the St Anselm Community for a year. In this evening Jaime and Barton reflect on their experienes and wisdom for the Wellspring Community days before the community commits to promises and vows before the Bishop and Archdeacon of Southwark.
So from the first Monday of Easter 2017 and for the next year we have set up a what's app group to receive daily audio reflection from Richard Rohr's important book 'A Spirit within us'. This is a private group for those who are involved in the Wellspring Community Peckham and / or those who focus on a contemplative practice everyday. To receive these reflections follow the link below:
These reflections are aimed at inner healing and inner integration.
So participants of the Wellspring Community joined up with the Sunday Morning St Luke’s Congregation for the traditional Ashing Service and the first of the Lent Course. This year St Luke's is going it alone to give room for the various ecclesial communities associated with St Luke's to meet up. This year we are using the 'Turn to Christ' Pilgrim Course which we hope will give enough space for people to reflect on their Christian faith.
The course continues for the first 2 Wednesdays of March followed by the next 4 Tuesdays starting at 7pm going on to 8.30pm.
I came across this video on Facebook today. I'm going to let it speak for itself, but its about how some young people in tough areas make money. Although I don't know where in London the interview was shot, the issues are likely to be fairly prevalent in areas like Peckham.
It's not uncommon for young people from broken families in these areas, to sell drugs to make money. On occasion where that young person is robbed, they may have to commit crimes to pay the dealer back for the drugs or 'food' that they were given to sell.
It's pretty hard-hitting, but definitely worth a watch.
Today members of St Luke’s Sunday morning and evening congregations combined to knock on doors on Commercial Way, Chandler Way and Pentridge Street to listen to the views of local residents concerning their struggles and thoughts about local issues. Calum, our Community Organiser co-ordinating Peckham Citizens led the team. We are compiling results and will publish these soon.
We are meeting together again on Sunday 19th March atmidday.