Ten marks of the church-as-abbey by Chuck Warner, the Small-Church Pastor, reflects on the characteristics of the Celtic Abbey churches that for a while were centres of worship, hospitality, learning, ministry and mission.
Is this possible in our time? I hope so.
UPDATE: I had to dash off to a meeting, but I’m back, so here are further thoughts…
What I love about this model is that it seems to suggest a way forward and a hope for the church in our time. It is so complete. It has a deep internal life and an active outward life. Vibrant public worship is vital, but it’s not everything. Abbey Church esteems discipleship as well as being accessible to those with little or no real commitment. It touches people’s lives at every level and speaks of the mission of God in every aspect of it’s ministry. And if fulfils the six traditions of the Christian faith highlighted in Richard Foster’s "Streams of Living Water"; contemplative (prayer-filled) holiness (virtuous), charismatic (Spirit-empowered), social justice (compassionate), evangelical (Word-centered), and incarnational (sacramental) as well as embracing the creative and artistic. The challenge to be self supporting is, perhaps, one we need to explore further, as long as we avoid creating a Christian business ghetto.
I am optimistic. Some churches are turning away from narrow definitions of themselves (‘a worshipping church’, ‘a charismatic church’, ‘a church of the Word’) to embrace a wider practical spirituality that revels in diversity. I know a few. Such churches will surely be attractive, for there is room beneath their (real or virtual) roof for people with a diversity of personalities and characters who will find a place for the ministry to which God has called them. A sort of meta church, but not mega-church, if you know what I mean.