At a recent Community meeting, we were joined by Gareth, the leader of the Community of St Margaret the Queen (based in Streatham, South London). It was a joy to have someone from another Community visiting us, with the opportunity for mutual encouragement and the sharing of experiences, and I felt so proud and blessed as members of the St Thomas Pilgrim Community assembled. Having an ‘outsider’ present helped me realise afresh just what we have here – it’s over a year since our very first meeting, and we’ve come such a long way in getting to know each other and forming a bond through prayer and fellowship.
St Margaret’s are further along the road of Community development than we are – they’ve been established for longer, with a dozen members who have taken vows, and they have a previously redundant church building at their disposal which is being put to all kinds of imaginative and impressive uses. I must confess to feeling twinges of envy along with the pride! However, Gareth was keen to stress that prayer and study of Scripture together are at the heart of everything they do as a Community, as they are with us, and he gave such interesting insights into the adjustments they’ve had to make, and the ‘rethinking’ that’s been necessary, as they establish a rhythm of life. They have members from a variety of cultural backgrounds and with differing levels of income, and the financial commitment and style of hospitality which may seem natural to some is simply not possible or appropriate for others.
Gareth’s observations, together with my own experiences both personal and with the Community, have also encouraged me to think about how we address and embrace our differences, and how to ensure that no one misses out or is left feeling uncomfortable as a result of something which may seem natural to many of us. For example, our members include people with disabilities and health issues: how does the use of music impact on someone with a hearing impairment, and are periods of silence difficult for someone with mental health challenges? And how practical is candlelight? (Personally, I love the atmosphere it creates, but reading certainly become more of a problem!) There’s also the matter of shared meals and individual dietary needs, where I freely admit my own shortcomings – not having such issues myself, I sometimes struggle to remember that others do. (And it was only when a newcomer asked for decaffeinated coffee that I realised we didn’t have any in the vicarage!)
Here is our Community prayer, written by Jutta:
Holy Spirit, be present with us. Guide our hearts and minds, our praying and searching, our listening and speaking, as we long to be part of a Community that is rooted in your love. May it help us to deepen our relationship with you, our relationship with one another and with the wider world, that your will be done and your kingdom come. Amen.