Saturday, October 2, 2010

Common Prayer, Pt. 2: Some Books

I went ahead and pre-ordered Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals on Amazon this morning. It's co-authored by Shane Claiborne and Enuma Okoro, in addition to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

There is a growing movement among what many new monastics refer to as "the ordinary radicals" of our faith. People on the fringe of society who live out the countercultural lifestyle to which Jesus calls us. The closest thing to this that I have found is, ironically, the lifestyle of the Benedictine monks in Conception Abbey.

In addition to this new book of common prayer, I am also turning to another revamped edition of a monastic staple: the psalter. I first purchased The Emergent Psalter, by Isaac Everett, almost a year ago because I liked the cover, and at the time the word emergent wasn't as stigmatized in my mind as it is now. However, with my fairly recent resurgence of interest in new monasticism, I have returned to the book--and it's incredible! An entire book (with a thesis-like introduction) covering the complete psalter, with sheet music and "amens" and antiphons and commentary and everything!

One more thing: if you're interested in deep, meditational prayer, pick up a copy of Too Deep for Words, by Thelma Hall. This thin little book is aimed at "rediscovering lectio divina," or holy reading. I have found such great meaning in repeating simple phrases over and over again; both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Henri Nouwen suggest applying this method to phrases like "the Lord is my Shepherd," or simply, "I love you, Lord." Lectio divina seeks to steep our true selves in scriptures, and to allow us to truly come into God's presence: a place where our prayers of petition seem like babbling monologues, and where the true dialogue which is too deep for human words takes place.

I bring all this up because I've mentioned before that I would rather establish a new monastic prayer community than a hyper-political commune. I am less interested in fighting for international nuclear disarmament (don't get me wrong--I pray almost daily for a reconciled, peaceful world) than I am in cultivating peace and understanding between brothers and sisters in my neighborhood. St. Francis didn't seek to end the wars that left him with something akin to PTSD--instead, upon returning home he transformed Assisi and the people around him, stripping himself bare (literally) as a beacon for God and a symbol of humility to those around him.

Anyway, in Anavah House, I am looking for something with a set prayer schedule, which is why I've been reading all these books. Something along the lines of lauds, vespers, and compline. But I am also examining different ways of worship--does "church" have to include the traditional "worship-offering-sermon-benediction" format that is so familiar to many of us? Or is worship something different? Can worship involve five people retreating to an upper room of a house and chanting psalms with one another? I think so, and I intend to try it. If you're interested in joining our small community, please let me know--seriously, tell me. Alyssa and I are beginning our search for property in the Kansas City area (please know that this should not keep you from joining or visiting our community if you're not in the area--we'll always be open to you). Let's get this ball rolling.



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