‘Way of Life’ – A gentle framework to guide and support us in our everyday faith.
Mirjam Ngoy-Verhage, our Diocesan Discipleship Enabler shares her experience of leading a ‘Way of Life’ quiet day.
Last week, I was privileged to lead a Quiet Day for the Hillingdon Deanery on the topic ‘Way of Life’. It took place in the beautiful St Mary the Virgin Church in Northolt, with its surrounding fields a welcoming space to sit, reflect and pray. Short reflections were followed by plenty of quiet space, group conversation and a Eucharist to mark the end of the day.
A Way of Life is more traditionally known as a Rule of Life and goes back all the way to the third century and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. People were drawn to these solitary hermits, their prayerfulness and wisdom, asking them the question: ‘How should we live?’ As communities gathered around them, there was a need to draw up something that explained their shared way of life. A Rule of Life was a collection of the sayings of the teacher, and grew to become a sort of ‘handbook’ of how the community would live together. Monasteries and convents today still function under a Rule, the best-known of which is that of St Benedict, dating from the 6th century. In the words of St Benedict, a Rule of Life is ‘simply a handbook to make the very radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life.’
An Intentional Path
The word ‘Rule’ comes from the Latin word regula and suggests a way to regulate or regularize our lives to stay on an intentional path. It is not just a set of rules to live by; rather, it is a gentle framework to guide and support us on our way. A helpful image is that of a trellis, offering guidance and support to a plant and helping it grow in a certain direction. It encourages us to reflect on what support we might need to help our everyday faith grow. The emphasis, however, is not on what we do, but on who we want to become. It is about guiding and shaping the posture* of our lives, emphasising an integrated and embodied life of faith.
To integrate this Way of Life into our everyday, we need to work out when and with whom we are going to live out this commitment. This is what you might call the pattern of our Way of Life.
Finally, there is the question of how we might embody or practice this commitment. This is where practices come in. It is about the habits that help shape us; our thinking, feeling, behaviours and priorities. Some of these might be shared practices that we will live out in our communities, while others could be more individual, like our personal times of prayer.
During the Quiet Day, we reflected on this, not just in the context of our personal lives but also of our church communities. How might a church discern and shape its Way of Life and how could this encourage the people in our churches to deepen faith and everyday spirituality? What are the communal patterns and practices that might help us embody this Way of Life together?
One of the attendees said: “I found the image of the Way of Life as a trellis really helpful and one I will keep in mind. I hadn’t thought before about a Way of Life in the context of a church community. I thought that the way it was presented as Posture, Pattern, Practices, with practical suggestions, really thought provoking. I would certainly want to be thinking about ways in which today’s learning can be applied to my own life, as well as our church community.”
Enabling churches to explore and shape their Way of Life is part of our Confident Disciples ambition and aim for every Christian in the London diocese to be growing as a disciple of Christ in their everyday faith. If you are interested to organise or be part of a similar Quiet Day, or simply to have a chat around this topic, please do reach out!
Diocesan Discipleship Enabler
Within our diocese there are some beautiful examples of church communities who have organised around a Way of Life, including the Nazareth Community at St Martin-in-the-Fields and KXC / King’s Cross Church’s Pattern initiative. Do check them out.
* The language of Posture, Patterns and Practices comes from Matt Long, Companion at the Community of the Tree of Life in Leicester.