Be Excellent to Each Other

Several years ago, I hit a wall concerning the House of Prayer.

I got tired of trying to populate prayer meetings.

In fact, if I want to be brutally honest and a bit crass, I felt like I was trying to sell a product (prayer), in a glutted market.

And people weren’t buying.

But about four years ago, an important shift happened. I felt the nudging of The Lord to change my focus.

Instead of building programs of prayer, what would happen if we cultivated a spiritual family with prayer at the heart?

In our recent visit to the Stockbridge Boiler Room, our team got a pretty good picture of what that could look like.

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Instead of filling their corporate life with programs, they have cultivated space. Space to share life. To know and be deeply known. They have dug down into teachings around Sonship/Daughterhood (recommended reading, “Orphan, Slave, Son by Ben Pasley”). They have drawn a larger circle around what they call family, and are inviting the lonely from their neighborhood to step into the circle.

They have cultivated a culture of honor in their midst, and while we were visiting exemplified the classic exhortation brought to us from Bill & Ted from their excellent adventure.

The prayer movement, in my experience, can attract strays and orphans. People who don’t feel like they fit anywhere, who have been (or felt they have been) misunderstood. But God puts the lonely in families, and leads out the captives with singing. We were blessed and challenged by the loving witness of prayer filled family we got to experience at Stockbridge.

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Missional Community and Geographic Proximity

Ok, I officially have geography envy.

“We’re going to carry the soup over to the hall. Can you grab that pot?”

It is nearly time for the Love Feast, the weekly dinner the Stockbridge Boiler Room puts on for 60-100 of its neighbors. Tonight’s menu? Soup, salad, bread, and all sorts of yummy pies. The soup has been simmering all afternoon in massive pots on the Boiler Room stove.

How are we going to transport it without it getting cold? That’s what I want to know. We grab the soup, step out the front door.

And then, moments later, step into the hall 2 doors down.

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2 doors down!

I’m amazed at the geographic proximity they have cultivated here in this prayer community. First there is the Boiler room, with its office, kitchen, meeting room, housing for interns, and prayer garage out back, which is accessible 24-7 with a key code box on the door. Then across the alleyway, is the home of the Colliers, one of the elder families of the community. A block away is the home of the Coopers, who are the other elders. And the meeting hall for Love Feast? Two doors down. Other members of the community live just short walks away as well.

After the Love Feast, Hannah and the Boiler Room Vision student, Michelle, came home to find some local girls sitting on the front steps of the Boiler Room, waiting for them to come out and play. What a loving witness to this community!

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One of the 12 Marks of New Monasticism is geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life. And these guys in Grand Rapids have it in spades! It’s exciting to experience what kind of community this geographic proximity can create.

Anybody wanna move to Greenaway Ave? I’ve got my eyes on a rooming house around the corner from us. It’s a little rough right now, but the landlord is working on it, and I can envision it being wonderful overflow housing for members of our community. And it has a massive garage/shed in the back…..

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Pilgrimage to Stockbridge Boiler Room

After five hours on the road, we finally arrived at the Stockbridge Boiler Room, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It looked like…

A house.

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A big one, mind you.

With a garage in the back.

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Also a big one.

We knew we were late, so we tiptoed in sheepishly, only to be warmly welcomed.

“It’s the Canadians!”

Tim, the preacher, didn’t miss a beat, and got back to his sermon. Apparently he was used to interruptions, as his baby boy gleefully crawled around at his feet.

The garage was decorated like the prayer rooms we become familiar with, and was crowded with locals and visitors like ourselves.

After the service, I had questions. “How is this zoned?”

“It’s actually the church building, and the house is the parsonage. We had to make it wheelchair accessible and install a toilet.”

It’s a fascinating community configuration. The garage is the prayer room, accessible 24-7 with a door keypad. The house attached is the home base of the boiler room. Offices and meeting room on the main floor, and housing for interns and Vision students. “Boys on the main floor, girls upstairs.” Tim and Brooke, and Jordan and Charis, the elders of the community live a block or so away. A life of prayer and service in tight geographic proximity. The house also hosted a guest room. So after a late dinner of Spanish tapas (Kirk accidentally ordered a plate of plain cheese cubes for his supper) at a local eatery, we tucked ourselves in so we could be up in time for morning prayer.;

12 Marks of a New Monasticism

The other day I was asked to come share at Redeemer University about what the face of New Monasticism looks like in Hamilton. It’s can be tricky trying to describe what GOHOP is and does. Prayer is at the heart, of course, but there is so much more going on than what happens in the prayer room.

A few years ago, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove and a bunch of other New Monastics gathered and produced a document that outlined common themes and practices that they saw emerging in the House of Prayer/New Monastic movement. They called this the 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, and they expanded on it in the book entitled School(s) for Conversion: the 12 Marks of Mew Monasticism

Here’s what they are:

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger

4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

I used these 12 Marks to map out the life and ethos of GOHOP. We don’t practice all 12, for many of the marks, our practice is in it’s infancy, is very experimental and undeveloped. But I’ve found that it is a framework that is helpful to broaden people’s understanding of our House of Prayer.

Over the next month I will expand on each of the marks that we are presently practicing, and paint a picture for you of our life together.

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Resources for Intentional Communities – The Mistakes We Make

Saturday was community house meeting day. Once a month Kirk and I. And our housemates gather at the local Timmies, take care of any house business, and learn a bit together about intentional community.

This Saturday we discussed the mistakes we’ve made in communities past and present. We talked about the need to “seek to understand” rather than to just jump in and try to correct a situation. We talked about how radical hospitality can be scary as we step beyond our comfort zones and invite people we might formerly avoid into our lives and home.

I shared about my over-responsibility, my tendency to do more than I should. It’s my love language (which is service, if you didn’t already guess) that spins out of control from time to time. But doing for you what you can do for yourself can communicate that I don’t think you can do it, and can be disempowering. And then I do more than I should, and I get tired and cranky. Ask my husband how fun I am to be with when I’m cranky.

Chris Heuertz, in his book Unexpected Gifts, shares with searing honesty about his epic fails in life together. It’s a vital resource for intentional communities, and a great read.

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I read another great blog by Lindsay Hamby this week about the sacrifice involved in intentional community and wanted to share it with you.

Sitting with Jesus, eating that stupid piece of bacon, He showed me that everyday living in this house I am faced with a series of choices: I can pretend that I am entitled to a certain amount of space and quiet – calling on my rights as a member of Western Culture – disregarding the fact that most of the rest of the world shares less space and less food with more people, and forgetting that I actually belong to a Greater Kingdom. I can ignore the prodding in my spirit towards generosity and seek my own provision and comfort. I can fake a smile, hide in my room, and secretly pray for everyone to disappear.

Or I can embrace the tension. I can acknowledge that my discomfort is revealing deeper sin and let it be confronted by love and mercy. I can allow the Holy Spirit to stretch me, to make me more like Jesus. I can look my doubt and fear straight in the face, over and over, a dozen times a day. I can make the most of this crowded season, because the reality is, that without these beautiful human beings all up in my space, I would continue living blissfully unaware of how far I am from true dependence on Jesus.

You can read the rest of it here.

There was a lovely spirit of humility around the table at Timmies as we shared our failings and vulnerabilities. We committed to loving truth telling, and helping one another when we feel weak. I was reminded what a rich experience intentional community is, and how much I love it!

A Culture of Prayer in Hamilton

We sat in a circle in what used to be a Christian bookstore.

Joe played the guitar. Sasha the djembe.

We sang hymns.

But full on.

And heartfelt.

As the worship drew to a close, there was a reverent hush, quietness, rest, waiting, listening, loving.

And a tangible sense of His Presence.

I spent the evening last night with what is soon to be a church plant out of Grindstone Church, coming right into my neighborhood.

“It started a year and a half ago,” explained Matt, their team leader, “with us gathering just for a couple of nights, to pray for the city.”

“Yeah, you have to be careful,” I responded, “prayer is dangerous!”

I also just found out that Grindstone is hosting another week of 24-7 prayer up in Waterdown. And that Redeemer University, which normally does one week of 24-7 prayer a year, is adding a second week this spring.

And of course, you all know we just finished an amazing two weeks of 24-7 prayer at the Vine.

And MoveIn is planning another 48 hours of continual worship and prayer over Holy Week.

I think I can honestly say that we are beginning to see the a culture of prayer growing in the city.

Different expressions.

Different communities.

Different locations.

But as Michael Gungor would say “all around, life is springing up from this old ground.”

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As one of many people and organizations who for years has been scattering seeds of prayer here in the city, I find this deeply encouraging.

May it be said of Hamilton,
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek. ~Psalm 27:8