Tuesday, October 11, 2011

what are we leaving as a legacy? a Lindisfarne monastic reflection

Buildings? Artifacts? Environments? What are we leaving as a legacy?

lindisfarne priory While on Holy Island, Lindisfarne, I wandered past the priory (lovely photo here). The first monastery at Lindisfarne was founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan around AD 635. In the face of Viking attack, the original buildings were abandoned in the late 9th century, at which time the relics of St Cuthbert was carried to Durham Cathedral. Then in 1093, it was rebuilt (and this is what is now visible) as a Benedictine house, before being abandoned again in 1536. So this is one legacy, buildings.

From this building emerged another legacy, artifacts. This centres on the Lindisfarne Gospels, when some time during the early 700s, an illustrated Latin copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was produced. This is exquisite, the detail extraordinary. It is a fine example of “glocal” (a fusion of global and local). For example there are blue hues which are probably lapis lazuli transported from Central Asia, mixed with detail that includes the sea creatures around Holy Island. So this is another legacy, artifacts. They can be extraordinary, like the Lindisfarne Gospels, or more mundane, like a takeaway after a service of a set of Advent postcards (for a 2009 example see here, for a 2005 example see here). They are what I in my The Out of Bounds Church? book explore under the heading of Spiritual tourism, ways to resource the spiritual journey beyond a gathered place. They are a key way of doing mission in our 24/7 world today.

bird on st cutherts cross Exploring Lindisfarne, I came across a third legacy. The Island is famous for it’s bird life, being landfall for migratory birds from across the oceans. Since the Spirit of God is like wind (John 3:8), then watching bird is one way to reflect upon the activity of the Spirit. So one of my disciplines at Lindisfarne including going bird watching, as a way of pondering God’s Spirit in me, with me, through me. So when I noticed a bird hide, I climbed inside and noticed the following:

This body of water … was probably created by the first monks of Holy Island in the 7th century to provide a ready supply of water and fish. Covering an area of approximately four acres, it is home to a variety of birds, animals and plants.

So this a third legacy, an environmental legacy. Life not in relation to a stone wall, or an artifact but in creating a pausing place, a resting place, a sustainable feeding place. I have been pondering this in relation to my question yesterday – What would an indigenous Australian mission order look like? and the sub-question – How would a “training college” partner with it? A college has partnered traditionally by offering courses. Which is important. But is there an environmental piece to consider – not just courses, but the entire habitus, the set of socially learnt dispositions, skills and ways of acting, that are often taken for granted, and which are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life? What would these be to leave a missional legacy for folk called by God to leadership in mission in Australia?

Posted by steve at 01:40 PM

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